Linkups between research and political decision
The linkups between research and the implementation of policies are maintained in the traditional way via memos to ministerial offices, in-house ministerial research services, the organisation of colloquia, seminars, reports, the publication of projects, commissioned statistical surveys and consensus conferences.
Ministries regularly launch calls for proposals on specific issues. Increasingly, sub- national governments collect very useful data via the implementation of audits that can be used to inform the decisions to be made. Some organise local ‘youth policy’ forums that bring together all those involved in the youth sector in the area to discuss specific topics. The diagnosis is sometimes further developed via public discussions
between specialists, representatives.
To date, however, the impact of all this work on political decision-making has not been really evaluated. To quote Chantal de Linares4, one of the most informed people working in the sector: “Specialists use the raw material generated by studies and research for their audits and advisory missions, whereas political decision- makers all too often know nothing about them. It’s as if the work done had an impact almost by accident, via some strategic analyses or recommendation memos or audits, whereas elsewhere, and more particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, the overlapping of research, expertise and political decision-making would appear to be more visible and much more closely linked.” This lack of visibility is reflected in the - sometimes harsh- criticism directed at French research, however rich and exceptionally dynamic it is in other respects.
Discussions on the place given to applied research and its concrete outcomes, in contrast to fundamental research that aims solely for scientific truth, should not be allowed to cloud the central issue, which is an institutional one. At national level, the State is attempting to better combine research and political decision-making. Those who use studies and the findings of research projects have no qualms about dipping into the field of fundamental research. However, it seems to me that the link between studies and research on the one hand and political action on the other is neither really structured nor organic. It happens one step at a time. It’s called on indiscriminately, based on an immediate need, but is not really organised. The outcome is a tremendous loss of talent and knowledge, not to mention a gap between the issues that interest researchers and the expectations of the political decision-makers who subsidise their work.
With youth issues now a top priority for most elected representatives, as shown by the studies carried out by the National Observatory of decentralised social action (ODAS) and, more recently, the time given to the issue of young people’s autonomy during the presidential campaign, more and more researchers and project leaders working on youth issues are in favour of a more direct relationship with both elected representatives and the advisors and specialists who work with them.
4 Chantal de Linares is the chief editor of the quarterly research magazine Agora débats/jeunesse and a researcher at INJEP.