Generating Evidence on Disseminating Evidence to Policymakers
ONAGA, SALLY BOWMAN, and SHELLEY M. MACDERMID Directors of the Family Impact Seminars in Wisconsin,
Michigan, Oregon, and Indiana
O ver the past 20 to 40 years, calls for evidence-based policy and practice have become so commonplace in North America, Europe, and other developed countries that Aletha Huston characterized them as “routine” in her 2007 presidential address to the Society for Research in Child Development (2008, p. 9). Take, for instance, the 2002 No Child Left Behind law that mentioned “scientifically based research” 111 times. Like Huston, we are taken with how quickly the lexicon of evidence-based policy appears to have caught on with policymakers. Consider the enthusiasm expressed by Republican senator Carol Roessler, a 25-year veteran of the Wisconsin legislature, about passing policies and enacting programs that are evidence based:
Yet the irony of the current state of affairs deserves mention. Policymakers say they want more science, but we still have scant evidence about effective ways to deliver that evidence. The time has come, according to Harvard’s Jack Shonkoff (2004), when the dissemination of research should be considered a science unto itself, particularly in the policy context where the evidence is more limited and less robust than in other practice settings (Nutley et al., 2007).