Skip to main content

Explaining use of information in public policymaking

Abstract

In recent years, scholars have attempted to understand the role of information in policymaking by developing several models of information utilization and have tested them empirically, at both national and state levels. This paper has called into question past studies as they relate to describing and explaining use of information. This paper tests an integrated model of information utilization that contains four sets of primary variables: decision makers’ environments (i.e., nature of policy issues), organization, individual characteristics, and characteristics of information. Based on the conceptual framework, a path model is built and tested against data about knowledge utilization and policy change in two areas of mental health policy (i.e., service and financing). The findings of the study have demonstrated that decision makers’ behavior does not conform to the assumptions put forward by either the organizational interest (e.g., information source or content of information) or the communications perspective (e.g., decision makers’ attitudes toward social science research). Instead, we have shown that information utilization is affected directly and indirectly by a variety of factors and their linkage, and not dominated by one set of factors that is defined by a singe perspective. The most important paths in the model are those between factors associated with information (e.g., the amount of information received or information source) and the use of information. Interestingly, these factors also play the role of major intervening mechanisms for linking other factors to decision makers’ use of information. More importantly, the general pattern of the findings indicates that policy areas make a difference in the process of information utilization.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Allison, G.T. (1972).Essence of decision. Boston: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Asher, H.B. (1983).Causal modeling. Beverley Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bardach, E. (1984). The dissemination of social science research.Knowledge, 6:125–45.

    Google Scholar 

  • Biernacki, P. and D. Waldorf (1981). Snowballing method.Sociological Methods and Research, 10:141–63.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bollen, K.A., (1989).Structural equations with latent variables. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bourgeois L.J. III, (1980). Strategy and environment.Academy of Management, 5:25–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bozeman, B. and S. Bretschneider (1986). Public management information system: Theory and practice.Public Administration Review, (special issue):475–87.

  • Brewer, G.D. (1973).Politicians, bureaucrats, and the consultants. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calvert, Randall L. (1985). The value of biased information: A rational choice model of political advice.Journal of Politics, 47:530–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caplan, N. (1979). The two communities theory and knowledge utilization.American Behavioral Scientist, 22:459–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chelimsky, E. (1987). The politics of program evaluation.Society, 25:24–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ciarlo, James, Ed. (1980).Utilizing evaluation. Beverly Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cleary, Paul D. and R. Angel (1984). The analysis of relationships involving dichotomous variables.Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 25:334–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Comfort, Louise K. (1992). A dynamic model of organizational learning and action. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, (September 3–6).

  • Corwin, R.G. and K.S. Louis (1982). Organizational barriers to the utilization of research.Administrative Science Quarterly, 27:623–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, J.A., (1985).The logic of causal order. Beverly Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Demartini, J. and L. Whitbeck (1987). Sources of knowledge for practice.Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 23:219–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denhardt, R. (1993).Theories of public organization. New York:Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunn, W.N. (1980). The two communities metaphor and models of knowledge use.Knowledge, 1:515–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feldman, Martha S. and J.G. March (1981). Decision in organizations and theories of choice. In A. Van de Ven and W.J. Joyce (Eds.),Prescripts on organizational design and performance. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, J. (1984). The comprehensiveness of strategic decision processes.Academy of Maanagement Journal, 27:445–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halperin, M. (1974). Shaping the flow of information. In F. Rourke (Ed.),Bureaucratic power in national politics. Boston: Little, Brown.

    Google Scholar 

  • Henry, N. (1995).Public administration and public affairs (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huberman, M. (1987). Steps toward an integrated model of research utilization.Knowledge, 8:586–611.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huberman, M. (1983). Recipes for busy kitchens: A situational analysis of routine knowledge use in schools.Knowledge, 4:478–510.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahneman, D. and A. Tversky (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under uncertainty.Econometirics, 47:150–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • King, G. (1991). Truth is stranger than prediction, more questionable than causal inference.American Journal of Political Science, 35:1124–135.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirkpatrick, S.A. et al. (1976). The process of political decisionmaking in groups: Search behavior and choice shifts.American Behavioral Scientist, 20:680–700.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knott, Jack and A. Wildavsky (1981). If dissemination is the solution, what is the problem? In R.F. Rich (Ed.),The knowledge cycle. Beverly Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsen, J.K. (1981). Knowledge utilization: Current issues. In R. Rich (Ed.),The knowledge cycle. Beverley Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levigton, C. and E.F.X. Hughes (1981). Research on the utilization of evaluation.Evaluation Review, 5:525–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luskin, Robert C. (1991). Abuses non tolit usum: Standardized coefficients, correlation, and R2s.American Journal of Political Science, 35:1032–1046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MacRae, D. and J.A. Wilde (1979).Policy analysis for public decisions. North Situate: Duxbury Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Majone, G. (1989).Evidence, arguments, and persuasion in the policy process. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mandell, M.B., and V.L. Sauter (1984). Approaches to the study of information utilization in public agencies.Knowledge, 6:145–64.

    Google Scholar 

  • March, James G., and H.A. Simon (1958).Organizations. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mealia, L., and D. Lee (1979). An alternative to macro-micro contingency theory.Academy of Management Review, 4:333–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meltsner, A. (1976).Policy analysis in the bureaucracy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mintzberg, H. (1979).The structuring of organizations. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nachmias, C., and C. Ridgeway (1986). Attitude measure in evaluation research.Policy Studies Review, 5:756–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nachmias, D. (1980). The Role of evaluation in public policy.Policy Studies Journal 8:1163–1169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, C.E. et al. (1987). The utilization of social science information by policy makers.American Behavioral Scientist, 30:569–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oh, C.H. (1992). Rationality, organizational interest, and information searching in bureaucracies. Paper presented at the annual meeting of American Society for Public Administration, Chicago, IL (April 13–15).

  • Patton, M.Q. (1978).Utilization-focused evaluation. Beverly Hills: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, Steven A. (1985). Neurophysiology, cognition, and political thinking.Political Psychology, 6:150–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pierce, J.C. et al. (1987). Environmental policy elites’ trust of information sources.American Behavioral Scientist, 30:250–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pollard, W. E. (1987). Decision making and the use of evaluation research.American Behavioral Scientist, 30:661–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quadrel, M., and R. Rich (1989). Information selection in the House of Representatives.Knowledge, 11:123–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rich, R.F. (1979). The pursuit of knowledge.Knowledge, 1:6–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rich, R.F. (1991). Knowledge creation, dissemination, and utilization.Knowledge, 12:319–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rich, R.F., and C.H. Oh (1993). The utilization of policy research. In S. Nagel (Ed.),Encyclopedia of policy studies (2nd ed). New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rogers, E.M. (1990). Promoting deliberation. Paper presented at the conference on Understanding and Improving Public Decisionmaking, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, (April 19–20).

  • Rossi, P. and H.E. Freeman (1984).Evaluation. Newbury Park: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, Anne L. (1986). The evaluation of a policy orientation for evaluation research.Public Administration Review (July/August):356–63.

  • Shrivastava, P. (1985). Knowledge systems for strategic decisionmaking.Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 2:95–107.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simon, Herbert A. (1985). Human nature in politics: The dialogue of psychology with political science.American Political Science Review, 79:293–304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stolzenberg, Ross M. (1980). The measurement and decomposition of causal effects in nonlinear and nonadditive models. In K.F. Schussler (Ed.),Sociological methodology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tversky, A. and D. Kahneman (1986). Rational choice and the framing of decision.Journal of Business, 84:251–78

    Google Scholar 

  • Van de Vall, Mark and C. Bolas (1981). Internal vs. external social policy research.Knowledge, 2:461–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Lohuizen, C.W. (1986). Knowledge management and policymaking.Knowledge, 8:12–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Webber, D. (1987). Legislators’ use of policy information.American Behavioral Scientist, 30:612–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weick, Karl E. (1977). Enactment processes in organizations. In B.M. Staw and G.R. Salancik (Eds.),New directions in organizational behavior. Chicago: St. Clair Press, Chapter 8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, C.E. (1981). The use of social science research. In H. Stein (Ed.),Organizations and the human services. Philadelphia: The Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, C. and M. Bucuvalas (1980).Social science research and decision making. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Winship, C. and R.D. Mare (1983). Structural equations and path analysis for discrete data.American Journal of Sociology, 89:94–110.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cheol H. Oh.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Oh, C.H., Rich, R.F. Explaining use of information in public policymaking. Knowledge and Policy 9, 3–35 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02832231

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02832231

Keywords

  • Decision Maker
  • Mental Health Service
  • Policy Issue
  • Service Area
  • Social Science Research