Social Science and Policy Analysis

Some Fundamental Differences
  • Mark H. Moore
Part of the The Hastings Center Series in Ethics book series (HCSE)


It always seemed that social scientists could contribute a great deal to policymakers. Since policymakers needed information about the likely consequences of policy choices and social scientists were trained to reason and collect information about social processes in careful, rigorous ways, social scientists could reduce the uncertainty about the outcomes of policy choices. This simple syllogism stimulated the development of a large social science establishment and thickened the bonds between policymakers and social scientists. In fact, policy-making processes now routinely incorporate social scientists and social science findings as part of the appartus that determines (and legitimates) policy choices.1


Social Science Policy Analysis Policy Choice Policy Problem Governmental Action 
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  1. 1.
    For some general discussions of the role of social science in policymaking see: Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., ed., Knowledge and Policy: The Uncertain Connection (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1978); Henry J. Aaron, Politics and the Professors (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Instituition, 1978); Charles E. Lindblom and David K. Cohen, Usable Knowledge: Social Science and Social Problem Solving (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979 ); and Seymour J. Deitchman, The Best Laid Schemes: A Tale of Social Research and Bureaucracy ( Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Edward Banfield, “Policy-Science as Metaphysical Madness” in Bureaucrats, Policy Analysts, Statesmen: Who Leads, ed. by Robert A. Goldwin ( Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1980 ).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Abraham Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 1964 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Edith Stokey and Richard J. Zeckhauser, A Primer for Policy Analyses (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978 ).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For an excellent example of this sort of theory, see Philip J. Cook, “The Effect of Gun Availability on Robbery and Robbery Murder: A Cross-section Study of Fifty Cities,” in Policy Studies Review Annual, ed. by Robert H. Hauman and B. Bruce Zehner, I II ( Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc., 1979 ).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mark H. Moore, “Managing the Effective Price of Handguns.” (Mimeographed; available from author.)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    These observations are based on personal experience with a major study to review what was known of the relationship of drug abuse and crime. For the early result, see Report of the Panel on Drug Use and Criminal Behavior: Preliminary Draft (Research Triangle, N.C.: Research Triangle Institute, June, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For an example of this, see M. Harvey Brenner, “Drug Abuse Trends in National Economy and Crime Policy Report: (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, 1977.)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mark H. Moore, “The Anatomy of the Heroin Problem: An Exercise in Problem Definition,” Policy Analysis 2 (Fall, 1976), 639–62.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Howard Raiffa, Decision Analysis (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., Inc., 1968 ).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Charles E. Lindblom, The Policy Making Process (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Hastings Center 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark H. Moore
    • 1
  1. 1.John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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