Scientizing Science Policy: Implications for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy and R&D Evaluation

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Virginia Tech


In this dissertation research, I try to deepen the understanding of the logic and history behind science of science policy approaches and to substitute for this scientific evidence-based science policy model an evidence-critical and -informed model in which scientific and democratic claims are promoted simultaneously.

Science of science policy, or what I call the scientizing science policy (SSP) discourse, is a strategic response of science policy community members to the following two socio-political developments: the government performance management reform movement and a new social contract of science. These two developments have motivated the science policy community to construct new science R&D management strategies that make science R&D investment more effective and economically beneficial than before. Former Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger played an important role in articulating an SSP approach at the federal level that opened up a political space for the larger SSP discourse to emerge and take hold. Other heterogeneous science policy community actors, including science agency managers and academic researchers, have also engaged and played major roles in shaping the premises, strategies, and directions that make up the SSP discourse by articulating their own approaches to SSP.

The SSP discourse constitutes a series of strategies such as economizing and quantifying R&D investment decisions. In particular, to implement the ideas of performance reform and a new social contract of science in the field of science policy and management, the SSP community members have prioritized the development of data, models, and evidence related to federal R&D investment by funding studies on new scientific data, tools, and quantitative methods through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) program. Interagency collaboration organized and supported by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is another key feature promoted by the SSP community.

Through this research of the rise and development of the SSP discourse, I emphasize the following aspects that are relevant to both science policy practice and research community members. First, the SSP discourse demonstrates the influence of the performance reform movement on science, technology, and innovation policy and R&D management. Second, the SSP discourse has the strong potential to shift science policy makers' focus from planning and implementing to evaluating federal R&D programs. Third, the SSP discourse not only reflects, but also promotes the tendency of public policy makers, politicians, and the public to rely on scientific claims and evidence when they are engaged in discussions or policy decision making processes related to science and technology. Fourth, the SSP discourse alters the balance of authority and influence among science policy actors, including science agency managers, scientists, and executive branch offices in the decision making process on federal R&D priority and investment. Fifth, even though there are conflicts and disagreements among science policy community members on the visions and future of the NSF SciSIP program, the SSP discourse is valuable as a space in which heterogeneous science policy research and practice community members can interact, learn from each other, and collaborate to develop U.S. science, technology, and innovation policy.

I conclude by proposing an evidence-critical and -informed science policy in which the SSP discourse contributes to promoting democratic values in the science policy decision process. In particular, the evidence-critical and -informed model focuses on not only using scientific data and evidence when making federal R&D decisions, but also on promoting the democratic and deliberative process in monitoring R&D activities' performance and social outcomes. In this model, I view the public as a legitimate stakeholder for evaluating federal R&D investment. This evidence-informed model can be implemented under the SSP discourse if the new R&D data, models, and tools developed by the NSF SciSIP-funded research are coupled with a new government performance website in which the public can access information about federal R&D activities as well as provide feedback about R&D investments to science policy makers.



science of science policy, government performance management reform, social contract of science, science and technology studies, R&D evaluation