The 2012 Morris Hansen Lecture: Thank You Morris, et al., For Westat, et al.

Open access

Abstract

This article, delivered as the 22nd Memorial Morris Hansen lecture, argues that the contract houses, typified by Westat, are uniquely situated in the cluster of institutions, practices, and principles that collectively constitute a bridge between scientific evidence on the one hand and public policy on the other. This cluster is defined in The Use of Science as Evidence in Public Policy as a policy enterprise that generates a form of social knowledge on which modern economies, policies, and societies depend (National Research Council 2012).

The policy enterprise in the U. S. largely took shape in the first half of the twentieth century, when sample surveys and inferential statistics matured into an information system that provided reliable and timely social knowledge relevant to the nation’s policy choices. In ways described shortly, Westat and other social science organizations that respond to “request for proposals” (RFP) from the government for social data and social analysis came to occupy a unique niche.

The larger question addressed is whether the policy enterprise as we know it is prepared for the tsunami beginning to encroach on its territory. Is it going to be swamped by a data tsunami that takes information from very different sources than the familiar census/survey methods?

References
  • Big Data Gap. (2012). Based on a survey of 151 Federal government CIOs and IT Managers in March, 2012. Available at: http://www.meritalk.com/bigdatagap (accessed October 15, 2012).

  • Bryant, E.C. (1997). Westat: Still Counting. Maryland: Rockville.

  • Bush, V. (1945). Science The Endless Frontier. A Report to the President by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

  • Coleman, J.S. (1966). Equality ofEducational Opportunity.WashingtonDC:USDepartment of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Education.

  • Frantilla, A. (1998). Social Science in the Public Interest: A Fiftieth Year History of the Institute for Social Research. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library, Bulletin No. 45. September 1998.

  • Guston, D.H. (2000). Between Politics and Science: Assuring the Integrity and Productivity of Research. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

  • Jasanoff, S. (1990). The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 237.

  • McNeely, I.F. and Wolverton, L. (2008). Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Norton paperback edition, 2009.

  • National Research Council (2012). Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy. Committee on the Use of Social Science Knowledge in Public Policy. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, K. Prewitt, T.A. Schwandt, and M.L. Straf (eds). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  • Office of Science and Technology Policy (2012). Big Data is a Big Deal. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/29/big-data-big-deal (accessed October 15, 2012).

  • Prewitt, K. (2011). Why It Matters to Distinguish Between Privacy & Confidentiality. Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, 3(2), Article 3. Available at: http://repository.cmu.edu/jpc/vol3/iss2/3/.

  • Price, D.K. (1965). The Scientific Estate. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Sheatsley, P. (1981-82). NORC: The First Forty Years. Chicago: University of Chicago. NORC Report 1081-82.

Journal of Official Statistics

The Journal of Statistics Sweden

Journal Information


IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.411
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.776

CiteScore 2016: 0.63

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.710
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.975

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 30 30 21
PDF Downloads 12 12 11