A Norm of Evidence and Research in Decision-making (NERD): Scale Development, Reliability, and Validity 321
Abstract: Evidence-based management is on the rise as a strategy to promote more rational decision-making and
effectiveness in governance and public service delivery. To understand how widespread the use of evidence is among
managers in various settings, and why evidence is emphasized more in some settings than others, it is necessary to
have a good measure of the use of research and evidence in management decision-making. This article reports on the
development and testing of a new multi-item scale, Norm of Evidence and Research in Decision-making (NERD),
that can be used across organizational and functional settings to assess evidence-based management practices within
an agency. The results indicate that the scale is internally consistent (reliable) and that it correlates with criteria of the
underlying construct (valid). The article concludes with a discussion of the potential utility of the scale for advancing
research and understanding about the use of evidence by public and nonprofit managers.
Evidence for Practice
• A new, concise scale offers the opportunity to understand organizational norms associated with the use of
evidence in decision-making.
• The NERD scale provides a missing link to our understanding of organizational behavior, decision-making,
and policy formulation.
• Organizations that utilize or are seeking to utilize evidence in decision-making must be aware of their
organization’s norms of evidence use, and differences that may exist across divisions, in order to be most
• Organizations seeking to better utilize evidence in making objective decisions, informed by science, should
consider individual attitudes toward evidence when making staffing decisions; NERD may be an important
dimension in shaping person-organization fit.
A plethora of studies have sought to identify
the role of culture in agency behavior and
performance. More recently, attention has
been given to the use of evidence in agency decision-
making, with an eye toward understanding the extent
to which this evidence-based approach has penetrated
public and nonprofit organizations. Our study
provides a new tool for assessing the use of evidence in
making routine management and policy decisions. The
scale—which we call Norm of Evidence and Research
in Decision-making (NERD)—provides a gauge of
the degree to which an agency’s culture emphasizes
research approaches and scientific evidence. The
extent to which scores on the NERD scale vary offers
potential to better explain the use of evidence in a
variety of areas from human resource management to
finance and budgeting and service delivery.
We should begin by clarifying that there is no
derogatory meaning implied by the term “NERD”
and the trait it purports to measure. Indeed, popular
culture has begun to embrace so-called nerdy behavior
as endearing, as evidenced (no pun intended) by the
popular television program The Big Bang Theory.
Recent Earth Day marches featured signs and social
media campaigns that encouraged people to voice
their position by noting, “I’m with science.” An agency
with a high NERD score is one in which rational
thinkers, skilled in analytical approaches, and with
respect for scientific evidence, will feel comfortable.
Their work will be guided more by facts than
intuitions, and they will respect decisions and policies
backed by evidence rather than power or charisma.
Indeed, in our view, NERD measures a trait that is
very much a good thing for an organization to have.
At its core, evidence-based management is a new
approach to governance. It emphasizes knowledge
and fact over belief and values. Evidence-based
management has been widely embraced around
the globe (Pfeffer and Sutton 2006), in part as a
response to growing demands on governments
Jeremy L. Hall
University of Central Florida
Gregg G. Van Ryzin
A Norm of Evidence and Research in Decision-making
(NERD): Scale Development, Reliability, and Validity
Gregg G. Van Ryzin is professor in the
School of Public Affairs and Administration
at Rutgers University–Newark, where he
is also director of the PhD program and
codirector of the Center for Experimental
and Behavioral Public Administration.
Jeremy L. Hall is professor of public
administration and MPA director at the
University of Central Florida and co-editor in
chief of Public Administration Review.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 3, pp. 321–329. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.