Consulting critics: A new role for academic policy analysts
It is by now widely accepted that social science research has only an indirect and general impact on public policymaking. Academic social science research, it is often argued, is antithetical to policy research: the former is animated by traditional scientific canons while the latter is specific and problem-oriented. Moreover, modern bureaucracies are now understood as political environments within which "pure research" will be routinely ignored if it does not serve someone's interests. For these and other reasons, social scientists are being encouraged either to eschew policy research or not to expect much influence. This article provides an alternative model of social scientists in the policy process, as "consulting critics" reviewing, analyzing and commenting upon substantive policy research. This model holds benefits for both scholars and clients, turns the canons of scientific inquiry into assets instead of liabilities, and responds to some of the concerns recently raised in the literature concerning the role of social science in the policy process.