It is tempting to oversell the practical value of applied research. A hard look at the effects of U.S. social science on public policy in areas such as active labor market policies (training, job creation, placement, etc.), crime prevention, fiscal policy, poverty reduction, and health care reform suggests an inverse relationship between social science consensus and policy and budgetary decisions. Fragmented and decentralized political economies (e.g., the United States) foster policy segmentation and isolated, short-run single-issue research—often politicized and misleading. More corporatist democracies (such as Sweden, Norway, Austria, and Germany) evidence a tighter relation between knowledge and power in which a wider range of issues is connected, longer-range effects are sometimes considered, and research is more often actually used for planning and implementation. Even in less hospitable societies, however, social science does make its way in the long run. Favorable conditions and examples are discussed.
Social Science and the Public Agenda: Reflections on the Relation of Knowledge to Policy in the United States and Abroad
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Harold L. Wilensky; Social Science and the Public Agenda: Reflections on the Relation of Knowledge to Policy in the United States and Abroad. J Health Polit Policy Law 1 October 1997; 22 (5): 1241–1265. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03616878-22-5-1241
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