Well-recognized obstacles to the utilization of social science knowledge lie within the social sciences themselves, and social scientists must share the blame for the failure to apply social science more broadly. This castigation from the National Science Foundation (Knowledge into Action: Improving the nation's use of the Social Science, 1969, p. 15-17) is supported by a description of the nature of much of social science research:
Empirical research tends to be exploratory, or for the purpose of testing theoretical propositions, rather than for practical problem solving.
Communication has been impeded because social scientists speak in a jargon incomprehensible to the layman.
When faced with a specific problem that has no ready-made conceptual answer, social scientists frequently retreat to the laboratory for more research and more facts. But the layman would ordinarily settle for less than a scientifically adequate answer. He simply wants the scientist to apply his trained intelligence, and give help based on the information at hand.
In 1947, Robin M. Williams, Jr., Professor of Sociology at Cornell University predicted that the nation would face race riots:
"Mass violence (e.g. race riots) is most likely under the following conditions: (a) prolonged frustration, leading to a high tension level; (b) presence of population elements with a propensity to violence (especially lower class, adolescent males in socially disorganized areas); (c) a highly visible and rapid change in intergroup relations; (d) a precipitating incident of intergroup conflict."
This prediction went unheard. The events of the 1960's [and 1992!] proved Williams correct.
Producing decisive, clear, prompt answers, targeted at decision-makers, is the aim of any effective research program.
Making Measures Count! NSF, Williams R.M. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1992, 6:1, 206
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