Three Social and Behavioral Scientists Discuss the ‘Real-World’ Impact of Their Research

How do we measure impact in the social and behavioral sciences? This is a question that SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space, explores through various initiatives, such as the 10-Year Impact Awards and Social Science Space’s Impact in Action Writing Contest. 

In a series of videos, three researchers discuss the “real-world” impact of their findings. By alerting governments to social issues, disseminating their research to those most directly impacted by the pandemic, and helping policymakers make informed decisions, these social and behavioral scientists are working to make positive change in the world. 


With social mobility declining for the first time in generations, What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? has brought this problem to policymakers’ attention, catalyzing the creation of a national tutoring program in the United Kingdom.  

The title’s author, Lee Elliot Major, the UK’s first professor of social mobility, believes that social scientists should measure the impact of their research through the quantifiable positive effects their work has on society. Recognizing that traditional methods of dissemination tend to reach older age groups, Major has been using social media to engage directly with young people suffering from decreased social mobility during the pandemic. His research focuses on helping disadvantaged youth improve their prospects and his other books include Social Mobility and Its Enemies and What Works? Major was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 2019. 


In the United Kingdom, where workers’ priorities often can be overlooked in policy decisions, Dr. Melanie Simms’s book What Do We Know and What Should We Do About the Future of Work? has captured the attention of policymakers. Simms is currently working with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, opening the door for more generative conversations between policymakers and researchers about labor rights and regulations. 

Simms is the professor of work and employment at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on how young people transition into the labor force and how workers influence changes at work. She is also the author of Union Voices: Tactics and Tensions in the UK. 


For most of the COVID-19 pandemic, human behavior has shaped the disease’s spread. But how do government officials persuade millions of people to stay at home and wear masks in public? Behavioral psychologist Jolanda Jetten wanted to provide information and guidelines for policymakers as quickly as possible. Written in three months and immediately published as a free-to-download PDF by Social Science Space, Jetten’s book Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19 was downloaded over 25,000 times in the days following its release. It was also distributed to UK cabinet members, who drew on Jetten’s research to refine the national approach to the COVID-19 crisis.  

Jetten is a professor of social psychology at the University of Queensland specializing in social identity, social groups, and group dynamics. She has also authored Individuality and the Group: Advances in Social Identity. 

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Ella Murdock Gardner

Ella Murdock Gardner is a corporate communications intern at SAGE Publishing and a student at Scripps College, where she studies English literature. With a background in journalism, marketing, and communications, Ella is passionate about clear, compelling writing.

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