The Public Interest

Can policy research help policy?

Martin Rein & Sheldon H. White

Fall 1977

ONE of the most striking developments of the new and expanded age of social policy, which dates roughly from the Johnson years, has been the great expansion in policy research to guide policy makers. In 1974, the General Accounting Orifice (G. A.O.), on behalf of the Joint Committee on Congressional Operations, conducted a telephone survey of Federally funded program evaluations. This survey was based on only a narrow definition of policy research, because it excluded studies designed to assess the scope and trends of phenomena, as well as many planning activities. Nevertheless, the G.A.O. study found a 500-percent increase in expenditures from 1969 to 1974. About 60 percent of the 1974 outlays of $146 million, or close to $88 million, went for contract research, with the rest going for grants or in-house studies. About half of the contract research funds went to profit-making organizations, 30 percent to nonprofit organizations, and 20 percent to universities.

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