An Academic Odyssey: Natural Science To Social Science & Policy Analysis
This book recounts my experiences, first in pre-college life and then in various fields, seeking to trace their contribution to what I have written, taught, and done. In my early work in social science I tried basing my research on simple notions of hypothesis testing and measurement of phenomena, applied in fields that had some relation to the making of public policy. The belief that this appro...
Hardcover: 284 pages
Publisher: Xlibris Corp (January 20, 2006)
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
Amazon Rank: 15731741
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ch can be socially useful is widespread, but alone its results are very limited.A deeper change for me than that from physical to social science was a shift in my focus, within social science, from academic (basic) to practical. In other words, I discovered that much social science centered on seeking knowledge, whereas I gradually came to believe that my work should be a means-direct or indirect-to the goal of service rather than of knowledge alone, a tool for improving lives.I came to a perception that differs somewhat from the mainstream of PPA: it is similar in being founded on practical work, but somewhat different in being based on multiple criteria and matrix presentations, expanded beyond economics, open to contributions from diverse users (or from affected parties), and immersed in democratic discourse.I hope this study will help others with similar goals to choose some paths and avoid others. The value of my story, which began about 80 years ago, is limited by historical change for a person starting a career now; but there remain common elements. Some readers may not agree with my utilitarian ethical foundation. All can join with me in the task of seeing whether a course of life can be aided by the effort to choose underlying general principles.Duncan MacRae was studying chemistry and physics at Johns Hopkins when World War II struck Hawaii. He heard a European health scientist argue that natural scientists should learn more about social science, and set himself the goal of learning this field after the war, seeking man's betterment by using the scientific approach in social science. After the war he wandered like Odysseus among universities and types of social science-social psychology, sociology, political sociology-and finally, in the 1970s, reached home in policy analysis. This was an emerging field at the time, and MacRae was a central figure establishing and solidifying it at the University of North Carolina.MacRae argues against those seeking to center practical social science about factual theory alone. Practical goals are what matter, and they are more reachable by direct means, as viewed in policy analysis, than as an incidental result of theoretical ones.The book deals also with the issues of training professional analysts and of guiding citizen to participate in the analysis of issues important to the public. The search for better answers and methods of enhancing the democratic process will never end, but MacRae has found that one factor stands out as the most likely to bring success to practical research: to engage a client or user of the findings before undertaking the project.