Credibility and Use of Scientific and Technical Information in Science Policy Making

Often researchers are disappointed by the limited extent to which peer reviewed Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research seems to contribute directly to high level public policy decision-making. However, does the perception of the limited use of formal scientific and technical information (STI) accord with empirical reality? What types of information “compete” with STI for inclusion in science policy-making, the realm in which one might intuitively expect greatest receptivity? How does the choice of various types of information relate to the use and impacts of science policy reports and recommendations? While there is a prodigious literature on the use of formal information in decision-making, our focus is on the use of STI in science, technology and innovation (S&T) policy, a domain in which there is virtually no empirical literature.

Our study will examine the use and impacts of STI. Our focus is on a single, but arguably quite important, S&T policy domain: National Research Council (NRC) reports. This is an especially important target institution for analysis because NRC committees have extensive information access and resources, as well as decision-makers who are well equipped to deal with a variety of information types, including STI. To understand the information ingredients of high-level S&T policymaking and advice in the context of the NRC, we provide an analysis of the characteristics of 600 NRC reports published from 2005-2012. We exclude workshop or narrow or very particular studies (such of those for the Transportation Bureau or in the Health and Safety area). For each of these studies, we collect, information about the study (e.g., size of the report, report area), about the committee chair and members (e.g., affiliation with academia, business, government), about these individuals’ publication history (e.g., disciplines they publish in), about the outcomes of the report (e.g., in the media, in legislative documents), and about the references (e.g., STI journal articles, other types of articles). This information will be supplemented with interviews with participants in a sample of these reports.

This is a joint project of Arizona State University and Georgia Tech and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation [Grant Award 1262251]. For more information, contact Barry Bozeman, bbozeman [at] asu.edu or Jan Youtie, jan.youtie [at] innovate.gatech.edu.