Social research and public accountability

The Campaign for the Public University defends and promotes the idea of university as a public good. The following is an extract from a Campaign blog that argues that publicly produced, publicly available data is vital for public debate.

“Despite the large-scale cuts to the budget for higher education, many commentators have suggested that research has been protected. However, a different picture is now emerging. In particular, it is becoming clear that serious changes to the funding of social science are taking place.

“In fact, the ESRC received a severe cut in its budget of approximately 12% and, at the same time, came under severe pressure to direct its funding towards more narrowly-defined projects. The ESRC now requires that its research have greater engagement with users and that it should outline ‘pathways to impact’, just as these ‘pathways’ will become part of the evaluation of research in the REF (for the purpose of distributing QR funds).

“Short term utilitarian goals for research are now being encouraged (indeed, such a policy was strongly advocated by Lord Browne of Madingley in his role as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering). In the social sciences this is often associated with a call to provide evidence for the development of public policy. However, it now appears that the Government is much more interested in research projects that are based in policy goals, not subjecting them to scrutiny.”

The full post is available at the Campaign for the Public University.

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