Social Science Research and Policymaking

ProtoSociology 25:186-205 (2008)
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The purpose of this article is to explore some of the non-obvious characteristics of the social science research-social policy (SSRSP) paradigm. We examine some of the underlying assumptions of the readily accepted claim that social science research can lead to the creation of rational social policy. We begin by using the framework of meta-analysis as one of the most powerful means of informing policy by way of empirical research findings. This approach is critiqued and found wanting in several ways. Several conceptual and definitional issues connected to the term “policy” are explored as well. A central argument is that even the best social science research is no guarantee of enlightened policymaking because the very (inductive) basis of empirical research militates against the possibility of going from research findings to policy. This claim is explored within the context of a central paradox. This paradox is explored in some depth. Finally, within the SSRSP claim, we analyze related issues such as the possibility of utilizing Mixed Methods and the politics of policymaking. We conclude that the SSRSP framework is, at best, a subjective one which ironically is needed, but one which is constrained by the very methods that is uses to formulate policy.



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