Authors: Rosenthal, Stephen R.
The type of research presented in this paper requires unusual support and guidance from others. The survey of NSF/RANN funding in the field of urban management and public service delivery could not have been accomplished without encouragement and facilitation of L. Vaughn Blankenship, Director of the Division of Applied Research, The National Science Foundation. The case study called “Managing Vandalism” relied on the goodwill, honesty and perceptiveness of Robert Fichter and Alvin Scott, two extraordinary City employees who took risks in conducting this project and then in reflecting on it. Tribute is also due to the 30 public servants around
…the country who responded sincerely and thoughtfully to an extensive telephone interview on that project, all ‘in the cause of science’. The case study called “Property Tax Policy” depended on about twenty key informants. Of this group, Robert Weinberg of Boston University, Alexander Ganz of the City of Boston, and Michael Schneider of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were absolutely essential, as allies and subjects who helped me to search through the many strands of this complex project. Our nation's quest for ‘high quality, policy-relevant social research’ has grown considerably during the past decade. Typically, ventures of this type are jointly pursued by three partners: sponsors, users and researchers. The first provides financial support. The second ultimately makes decisions which are informed by the research findings. And the third has primary responsibility for producing new knowledge. This kind of partnership is unnatural: it brings together a set of people who tend to have different goals, styles, traditions, and institutional affiliations. The resulting process of knowledge production is clearly different from that of basic science. And its criteria of relevance vary in important respects from applied research in the engineering or natural sciences. This paper views that tripartite venture as a unique kind of social system. It asks the question: When is applied social research ‘policy-relevant’? Answers to this question are proposed for a particular class of applied social research projects, ones for which the Federal government is the sponsor, and decision-makers in State or local government are the intended users. Trends in policy for Federally-supported R&D, the nature of the applied social research community, the needs of State and local government, and even the training of public managers and administrators all point to the growing significance of this locus of inquiry. The paper generally draws on over five years experience by the National Science Foundation in supporting research relating to the performance of various non-Federal government activities. A more detailed set of findings is presented from two in-depth case studies of this kind of research project. The subject of the first is the management of vandalism in public parks and recreational facilities, while the second deals with property tax policy. These two case studies provide methodological approaches and empirical insights for future investigations of this class of applied research activity. They also suggest certain strategies for those who find themselves in one of the several key roles in such joint ventures.
Keywords: Research management, urban research, temporary organizations, public management, knowledge utilization, science policy
Citation: Human Systems Management,
vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 135-150, 1980
Price: EUR 27.50