Better Research for Better Policies

cover_shermanjacobsButts, Jeffrey A. and John Roman (2011). Better Research for Better Policies, in Juvenile Justice: Advancing Research, Policy, and Practice. Sherman, Francine and Francine Jacobs (Editors). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

To do their jobs effectively, policymakers, professionals, and community partners must be able to access high-quality information about the impact of policies and programs for youth. Recent years have seen an increasing, and appropriate, focus on evidence-based policy. In setting priorities for funding and support, intervention programs demonstrated to be effective and efficient are preferred over programs that are well intentioned but untested by rigorous evaluation. An evidence-based approach is undeniably better than an approach based on faith or anecdotes, but the findings of existing evaluations are not sufficient by themselves as a basis for effective policy-making. Translating research into practice requires more than a review of existing studies. It requires knowledge of the research process and its limitations. How do researchers generate evidence? What choices are involved in designing evaluation studies? Who sponsors research and how do they select one study over another? How do researchers and their funding bodies shape and interpret the results of research? Who disseminates research findings and how does the manner of presentation color the impact of information? A clear-eyed investigation of the entire evidence-generating process is an invaluable part of evidence-based policy.