Often researchers are disappointed by the limited extent to which peer reviewed STEM research seems to contribute directly to high level public policy decision-making. However, does the perception of the limited use of formal scientific and technical information (STI) accord with empirical reality? How does the choice of various types of information relate to the use and impacts of science policy reports and recommendations?
While there is a prodigious literature on the use of formal information in decision-making, our focus is on the use of STI in science, technology and innovation (S&T) policy, a domain in which there is virtually no empirical literature. This study examines the use and impacts of STI in the context of a single, but arguably quite important, S&T policy domain: the US National Research Council (NRC) reports. This is an especially important target institution for analysis because NRC committees have extensive information access and resources, as well as decision-makers who are well equipped to deal with a variety of information types, including STI.
To understand the information ingredients of high-level S&T policymaking and advice, we have coded information about the report, policy area, committee and reviewers, STI, and use of the report by Congress. Results indicate that STI widely used in the NRC report-writing process, but, although nearly half of all NRC reports are explicitly conveyed to Congress, STI use does not figure significantly in this conveyance. These findings imply different internal and external credibility orientations.