Theresa Garvin and Renée Gravois Lee



Reflections on the “Policy-Relevant Turn” in Research

Garvin and Gravois Lee critically examine the increasing pressures to make scholarly research “policy relevant.” The essay adds a cautionary note to optimism about developments in the field of applied research. The authors focus on the increasing demand to illustrate the policy-relevance of research. Important questions raised include: “What are some of the potential dangers of the policy-relevant turn and how it may subtly change how investigators approach their work?” As researchers committed to applied social research, the authors reflect critically on the potential of such policy-relevant pressure to influence each stage of the research enterprise — from conceptualizing the problem, to collecting and analyzing data, as well as communicating findings. Besides acknowledging the importance of policy-relevant work, the authors also consider how such an orientation can result in narrowing our research focus and parameters in ways that limit our understanding of social phenomena under study and undermine the creation of well-informed policies or programs geared toward social justice.

applied research, policy-relevance of research, data collection and analysis

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 4 (2003): 40-53