The Public Value of Social Policy Research

Project Details


This project investigates the public value or societal outcomes of the research funded by social policy agencies of the US federal government such as the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and some human services agencies within Health and Human Services. This research studies agencies in Justice and Human Services. The research sponsored by social policy agencies constitutes a significant sum, and it includes a wide array of disciplines and a great share of the social science research the federal government funds. Studying this research will broaden the scholarship of public R&D management beyond such traditional agencies as NIH and NSF, facilitating the comparative study of techniques including merit review and technology transfer. Moreover, the study may illuminate mechanisms for producing public value from research and thus contribute to understanding the relationship between sponsored research and societal outcomes more broadly. Examining the 'public value' of social policy research means studying the societal outcomes of the research and the hypothesized causal links between mission-related research programs and these outcomes. The study begins by scrutinizing public articulations of the goals and objectives for the research and continues by analyzing the procedural and logical connections between them and identifiable societal outcomes. Sources for the articulation of goals and objectives include authorizing legislation, mission statements, and strategic plans. Societal outcomes include available, systematic social indicators, as well as ad hoc indicators that policy makers and stakeholders have used in articulating the societal problem triggering the need for the research program. Although the agencies' responses to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) will be an important resource, the researchers will not focus on evaluating that Act's impact, per se, on the agencies or their research. Rather, they will concentrate on asking how social policy agencies set priorities between current programs and investing in research, how they manage research for societal outcomes, how they transfer new knowledge and/or technologies from their sponsored research into the pursuit of their missions, how they anticipate the linkages between their research and societal outcomes, and what those outcomes may be. The research will thus progress by a combination of documentary review and elite, semi-structured interviews of agency personnel and grant recipients, as well as of members of target and user communities. Many of the agencies studied have a disproportionate impact on minority and disadvantaged groups, and the method of study includes target, user, and client communities as respondents.

The research funded by this proposal will continue research previously funded by NSF at the pilot level. It will complete the inquiry into research sponsored by the human services agencies of HHS and begin and, it is hoped, complete the inquiry into the National Institute of Justice at the Department of Justice. The team will train two graduate students and, besides publication in scholarly journals, research findings will supplement teaching in several graduate courses in the public policy program at the Principal Investigator's institution.

Effective start/end date9/1/037/31/05


  • National Science Foundation: $79,993.00


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