The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook

The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook

The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook

The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook

Synopsis

Basic scientific research and technological development have had an enormous impact on innovation, economic growth, and social well-being. Yet science policy debates have long been dominated by advocates for particular scientific fields or missions. In the absence of a deeper understanding of the changing framework in which innovation occurs, policymakers cannot predict how best to make and manage investments to exploit our most promising and important opportunities.

Since 2005, a science of science policy has developed rapidly in response to policymakers' increased demands for better tools and the social sciences' capacity to provide them. The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook brings together some of the best and brightest minds working in science policy to explore the foundations of an evidence-based platform for the field.

The contributions in this book provide an overview of the current state of the science of science policy from three angles: theoretical, empirical, and policy in practice. They offer perspectives from the broader social science, behavioral science, and policy communities on the fascinating challenges and prospects in this evolving arena. Drawing on domestic and international experiences, the text delivers insights about the critical questions that create a demand for a science of science policy.

Excerpt

Kaye Husbands Fealing, Julia I. Lane, John H. Marburger iii, and Stephanie S. Shipp

Federally funded basic and applied scientific research has had an enormous impact on innovation, economic growth, and social well-being—but some has not. Determining which federally funded research projects yield results and which do not would seem to be a subject of high national interest, particularly since the government invests more than $140 billion annually in basic and applied research. Yet science policy debates are typically dominated not by a thoughtful, evidence-based analysis of the likely merits of different investments but by advocates for particular scientific fields or missions. Policy decisions are strongly influenced by past practice or data trends that may be out of date or have limited relevance to the current situation. in the absence of a deeper understanding of the changing framework in which innovation occurs, policymakers do not have the capacity to predict how best to make and manage investments to exploit the most promising and important opportunities.

This lack of analytical capacity in science policy sits in sharp contrast to other policy fields, such as workforce, health, and education. Debate in these fields is informed by the rich availability of data, high-quality analysis of the relative impact of different interventions, and often computational models that allow for prospective analyses. the results have been impressive. For example, in workforce policy, the evaluation of the impact of education and training programs has been transformed by careful attention to issues such as selection bias and the development of appropriate counterfactuals. the analysis of data about geographic differences in health care costs and health care outcomes has featured prominently in guiding health policy debates. and education policy has moved from a “spend more money” and “launch a thousand pilot projects” imperative to a more systematic analysis of programs that work and that could promote local and national reform efforts.

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