Actors bringing in research in the public decision-making process, as well as actors affected by this research, can ask Social Science Works to give an independent opinion on the quality of the research.
Our modern society is increasingly research-based. Policies are more and more grounded on or justified with the help of research. Therefore, actors who have an interest in these policies, use research to influence each other, as well as, political representatives, opinion leaders, and citizens. An actor who can justify his or her position via research has a bigger chance to affect decision-making outcomes, certainly in modernized societies where “rational” science and research have a higher and higher standing.
Research is not just produced by university-based scholars, but also by (quasi-) governmental organizations, corporations, interest and advocacy groups, political parties, think tanks and other non-governmental organizations. To an increasing extent it is also conducted on commission by private research and consultancy institutions.
Especially resourceful interest groups in terms of organizational size and financial mass are in the position to justify their preferences via research: their existing institutional infrastructure and their funding sources enable them to produce or commission it.
It is often difficult, though, to assess the quality of research. Actors encountering research when developing a policy, as well as stakeholders affected by research-based policies, seldom have the knowledge or the means,
- to assess the suitability of a research design and its methodological execution,
- to assess the reliability of the data used in drawing conclusions, or
- to assess the validity of the application of the specific research to inform or to justify the proposed policy.
And even when they do have the knowledge, they may not be perceived as authoritative because they are not considered “experts” or “independent”.
Both policymakers and less resourceful stakeholders often find themselves in need of help, and Social Science Works will provide it. Its team of social scientists gives a second opinion on existing research brought into a policymaking process:
- How well was it conducted?
- Do the results justify the conclusions and recommendations?
- Would other kinds of research lead to different conclusions?
- Were the right questions asked?
- Is the problem for which the research seeks solutions well-defined or are other definitions of the problem conceivable?
- Could the redefined problem be solved in other ways?
- Has the research been based on implicit assumptions that need to be explicated and examined?
The assessment of research via second opinions contributes importantly to the quality of decision-making, as well as to civic society and its public discourse.
In particular less resourceful civic groups are often put under pressure by the research organized or paid for by powerful interests. In societies where social, economic and political inequalities are big and rising, second opinions on this research are of great democratic importance. They further the competition of ideas needed in a vibrant civil society.
An example report is available to download here: What We Can and Can’t Measure in a Brexit Deal: Social Science Works 2017