At a time when the debates over benefit uprating and the cuts to Child Benefit dominate the headlines, we hardly need reminding that money is tight and the government will have to make some difficult decisions in the forthcoming Spending Review. The Academy of Social Sciences is working to articulate the value of social science research to society, the wider economy and policymaking itself, in anticipation of government decisions on spending on research in the UK.
We have launched an evidence-gathering process, aimed at ensuring that the government hears about the value of social sciences for addressing social and economic problems, creating and driving innovation, and improving the lives and wellbeing of the UK population.
We have asked the learned societies, and the universities contributing to the Campaign for Social Sciences, to help make our submission to government compelling, by showcasing the best examples of social science research that has impact. The themes identified as priority areas for research by BIS in the current funding allocation are: global uncertainties, digital economy, ageing, environmental change, energy, global food security. The Science and Society key areas for action – science for all, science and media, science and learning, and science for careers and science and trust – will guide our influencing strategy.
It is vital that the key role of social sciences in generating evidence, and translating that evidence into policy and practice, is understood. The Alliance for Useful Evidence recently ran a seminar on ‘Future directions for scientific advice in Whitehall: broadening the evidence base: science and social science in social policy’, at which, according to Twitter, a Permanent Secretary described improving the evidence base for policy as a ‘Grade 1 issue for the Civil Service’. Social scientists must push at this open door, and defend the enduring need for social research expertise, and a continued supply of well-trained research and policy professionals, to deliver on this issue. As a recent U.S. publication, Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy, says: ‘every field of science produces usable knowledge but explaining whether, how and why that knowledge is used is the task of social science’.
If you or a colleague have recently conducted research which has influenced policy or legislation, or had an impact on government spending levels, please submit this to us at the address below so that we can make the most effective case possible for continued investment in our disciplines.
We are exploring the value and impact of research under three preliminary headings, which may be useful to bear in mind:
1. research producing counter-intuitive findings (i.e. producing results that contradict a ‘common sense’ view and which can only be gained through systematic research)
2. research which has a clear cost-benefit calculation attached, or which has led directly to a cost saving or prevention of ineffective spending
3. research which has had a direct impact on the formulation of legislation, or a change in the law.
We will also draw attention to research that shows how social sciences help natural sciences and technological innovation in implementation.
Please e-mail your contribution to us (ideally by Thursday 24th January, 2013) to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send by post to Fiona McAllister, Policy Officer, Academy of Social Sciences, Tabernacle Street, London EC2A 4UE.