Central to the contract of public funding for science is the belief that research findings should inform societal decisions, but this is often not the case. Communication processes are at the heart of “bridging the gap” between scientists and policymakers.
The United States has many laws and policies that stipulate governmental provision of information and consultation with the public, especially in the environmental domain. These forms of communication underlie democratic governance processes. Increasingly, federal programs that generate decision-relevant science also involve iterative communication in order to co-produce research with members of the public, stakeholders, and partners in governance.
Evidence-based policymaking is sometimes interpreted as use of science generally by policymakers, but its roots are in the use of social science research and evaluation to improve the design and implementation of governmental programs, including those promoting behavioral change. Communication itself can serve as a “soft” policy tool that can be less punitive and costly than laws and taxation.
Other areas of research include risk and science communication in support of—or to inform—institutional policies, including those of government.