Scientific Communication and Public Policy: Is a Public Policy Based on Evidence Possible?

Universitas Psychologica, vol. 18, no. 1, 2019

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Scientific publications seek not only to be channels of dialogue and trust in academic communities but also that their products have an impact on societies. The confidence of this cycle lies in the fact that peer review processes guarantee the quality of artifacts derived from research (López-López et al., 2018).

In this same sense, the knowledge that is visible in academic publications nurtures the development of innovation processes when it goes to patents, and these generate various transformations in the productive world or human well-being. Nevertheless, not all innovation processes go through this circuit of scientific research as the basis of technological development, sometimes these developments pass through more risky routes subject to externalities that tend to accelerate the processes of production of technological change. Despite the differences in the processes of these two types of knowledge, scientific and technological, both share numerous validity processes before going to the public scenario or becoming part of the social regulation systems (Bunge, 1999, 2003; Quintanilla, 2012).

On the other hand, the disciplinary universes have dynamics in which the relationships between science, technology, and society are differentiated. It seems evident that the dynamic of the relationship between disciplines such as physics and engineering, or between biology and medicine, or between sociology and political science, is not the same; we even have some disciplines that move with dynamics in which the products of knowledge seek to develop technologies and at the same time solve fundamental problems. In some disciplines the processes are confused, distancing themselves until the point that they break the links within the disciplines, however, these processes make new areas to emerge and even generate new artifacts that do not always go through the necessary review and assessment to be transformed into a product of social impact (Bunge, 2003; Olive, 2013).

The products derived from the disciplines that are in the social sciences scenario have different paths, so it is common to see how sociology, political science, anthropology, and economics are usually used as resources to contribute to society and politicians, they use them as decision-making resources to legitimize their actions or even to produce public policies. In this sense, part of the work of social scientists ends in artifacts or social innovations, although it is important to recognize that they are often vulnerable to the pressures of decision makers in economic or political scenarios and their work ends up influencing even the designs that society acquires. You can see an example of this on the economic policy decisions that depressed public investment after the recessions that had been foretold by the academics’ prediction models, and that later proved to be wrong paths from which some actors benefited. It is necessary to point out that these practices are not usually generalized, but they do show a vulnerability to which scientific research, technological development, and social application are heading.

For psychology, this relationship is complicated in different ways. On the one hand, by the multiple connections of psychology: with health sciences, with social sciences such as economics, sociology, political sciences and communication and with emerging disciplines such as neuroscience. On the other hand, psychological science has not always articulated the path of developments in basic and applied psychology with innovations from the professional world; these differences are expressed in the disputes of the organized psychology communities. An example of this usually are the conflicts between schools or professional organizations and academic societies, such as universities, which inevitably affects the dynamics of training, production and scientific communication of the discipline (López-López et al., 2018).

Obviously, the methods of regulation and assurance of the quality of the production of knowledge in the academic world have multiple actors and control systems to ensure their quality, and not always the professional world has the same regulation processes which generates problems of credibility in the public opinion about the discipline (Mitcham & Mackey, 2004; Olive, 2013; Quintanilla, 2012). Therefore, organized communities must ensure that the production of cognitive artifacts and psycho-technological developments have processes of assessment that ensure the quality of the evidence produced so that they can be used by communities or decision makers, as resources for social advocacy or public policy.

In this direction, organized psychology must surely undertake actions of communication to society that influence them with knowledge based on evidence developed by our discipline. By doing so psychology will be contributing to the decision making that impacts society without breaking its fabric and mitigating the damages, so they play a transforming role to improve human well-being or at least allow to denunciate decisions that affect society.


Bunge, M. (1999). Las ciencias sociales en discusión. Buenos Aires: Suramericana.

Bunge, M. (2003). Emergencia y Convergencia. Barcelona: Gedisa.

López-López, W., Caycedo, C., Acevedo Triana, C., Hurtado-Parrado, C., Silva, L. &, Aguilar-Bustamante, M. C. (2018). Training, academic and professional development in psychology in Colombia: Challenges and perspectives. In G. Rich, L. K. De Souza, L. Zinkiewicz, J. Taylor & J. L. BintiJaafar, (Eds.), Teaching psychology around the world (Vol. 4, pp. 53-79). Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Mitcham, C., & Mackey, R. (2004). Filosofía y tecnología. Madrid, ES: Encuentro.

Olive, L. (2013). La ciencia y la tecnología en la sociedad del conocimiento. México, DF: Fondo de cultura económica.

Quintanilla, M. A. (2012). Tecnología, Cultura e Innovación. In E. Aibar & M. A. Quintanilla (Eds.), Ciencia tecnología y Sociedad (pp. 103-135). Madrid, ES: Trotta.

Additional information

How to cite: López-López, W. (2019). Scientific communication and public policy: Is a public policy based on evidence possible? Universitas Psychologica, 18 (1).