Character  &  Context

There’s a New Journal In Town: Meet ‘Behavioral Science & Policy’

Behavioral Science & Policy logo

By Dave Nussbaum

Behavioral Science & Policy (BSP), a new international, peer-reviewed journal, has announced a call for papers. Submissions for the journal’s inaugural issue can be made through July 15th. Wendy Wood, a professor of Psychology at USC and one of the journal’s senior disciplinary editors, gave Character & Context the skinny on what makes BSP unique.

C&C: Why do we need this journal — what does it provide that other journals currently do not?

WW: Behavioral Science & Policy is a new journal devoted to policy solutions based on sound behavioral science. It will report and develop insights from psychological research (along with other social sciences) to create workable public and business policy solutions. According to Craig Fox and Sim Sitkin, the head editors of the journal, its primary goal is to publish the highest quality scientific work at the intersection of behavioral science and policy, and through the publication and promotion of this work, to have an impact on public and private sector policy making and implementation. The journal is being launched in the same spirit as the Behavioral Insights Team (aka the Nudge Unit) in the UK, along with the newly developing one in the U.S.

C&C: Who is the target audience for this journal?

WW: It is intended to be read by both policy makers and behavioral scientists. Policy makers will read it to understand the application of behavioral science to policy design and delivery—to understand how to improve policy based on the relevant science and how to bring greater rigor to policy evaluation through scientific methods. We scientists will read the journal because it will report innovative findings and/or novel integrations of findings that are relevant to public policy—because it will advance behavioral science through the lens of policy applications. Many behavioral scientists want their work to have impact, and the journal provides the opportunity to make an important difference in social policy.

C&C: In the recent call for papers, the journal describes articles as containing “actionable advice for policy makers and practitioners.” Social psychologists are often happy to discuss policy implications of their research, but can be reluctant to offer concrete policy recommendations; will the journal be publishing papers that may be very relevant to policy but don’t cover that “last mile”?

WW: Yes, the emphasis on actionable policy differentiates the journal from other applied outlets such as Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Each paper is expected to explain specific implications for policy and practice. And you are right, social psychologists aren’t always ready to think through the policy implications of our work in the kind of detail that we apply to the science itself. But this is where the editorial structure of the journal can help. Each article will go through two reviews, one is a disciplinary review conducted by scientists in the field, and the other is a policy review, conducted by policymakers at Brookings Institution and other policy institutes. The policy review is designed to address just your point—what is the actionable policy recommendation in the article?

C&C: The journal has a unique editorial process — how does that work?

WW:The journal is innovative in conducting dual reviews from both the science side and the policy side. A manuscript that reports ground-breaking science but provides only vague policy recommendations will especially benefit from this structure. This manuscript can be developed with the input of our policy editors and reviewers to make a clearer policy recommendation, one that matches the scientific contribution. Still other manuscripts might benefit more from the science reviewers. A manuscript might report an important policy innovation but fail to test–or perhaps to adequately present–the science behind the policy.

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Character & Context is the blog of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). With more than 7,500 members, SPSP is the largest organization of social psychologists and personality psychologists in the world.   

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