Skip to main content

Putting politics aside: Using evidence to develop policy

May 19, 2010

The authors of a new book about informing policymaking with research have devoted their careers to bridging the gap between the research and public policy communities.

Karen Bogenschneider and Thomas Corbett have the rare perspective of scholars who have always had one foot in the public policy world, which they describe with wit and humor in “Evidence-Based Policymaking: Insights from Policy-Minded Researchers and Research-Minded Policymakers.”

Their argument — that research and policy ought to go hand-in-hand — has gained currency of late and is seen by many as the only way to break the partisan gridlock that often paralyzes local, state, and national government. Bogenschneider and Corbett, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, make their argument using stories about their personal experiences during decades of working to connect evidence and policy.

The book is pragmatic, drawing on advice from some of the best and brightest informants from both the research and policy communities. In their own voices, researchers provide incisive analysis about how to bridge the divide between research and policy, and policymakers provide insights about why they use research, what kind is most useful, where they seek it, and how they screen its quality.

The book breaks through stereotypes about what policymakers are like, and provides an insiders’ view of how the policy process actually works. Readers will learn what knowledge, skills, approaches, and attitudes are needed to take research findings from the laboratory to lawmaking bodies, and how to evaluate one’s success in doing so.

“Bogenschneider and Corbett brilliantly fill a big gap in our understanding of evidence. This volume would make a fine addition to any and every serious master’s or upper-level undergraduate policy course where the role of evidence in the policy process is discussed,” says Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty and Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs at the La Follette School of Public Policy at UW–Madison.

Support for the book was provided by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.

Bogenschneider is Rothermel-Bascom Professor of Human Ecology, professor of human development and family studies, research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW–Madison, family policy specialist at UW Extension and executive director of the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars.

Corbett spent a number of years in a leadership role at the Institute for Research on Poverty and held an academic appointment in the School of Social Work (now emeritus) at UW–Madison.

–By Deborah Johnson