William Julius Wilson
Published February 2002
In this paper the author argues that social scientists need to do more to provide policy-relevant research. Rapid technological and economic change raise new issues about how policy should adjust that are not adequately addressed by older and narrower approaches. The author suggests two ways in which the domain of policy-relevant scholarship can be expanded. First, social scientists should be more flexible about the kinds of data they use and the ways they use them. Preliminary data can suggest new hypotheses, which can widen debate, and ethnographic and other qualitative methods can uncover patterns of behaviour invisible in quantitative sources. Second, social theories, concepts and ideas should play a greater role in the policy arena, shaping the way policy actors think about how the world works.