Academy supports call for more inclusive approach to government recognition of social science expertise

The Academy of Social Sciences has added its voice to calls for more explicit recognition and representation of the UK’s multidisciplinary strengths – including the social sciences – in UK Government terminology and in the balance of research expertise the Government draws on in order to improve policy outcomes for citizens. Much of the work of Government concerns improving outcomes for people, economy and society, an essential underpinning to which is the understanding of them and their processes of change – that’s social science.

A recent article by Research Professional News summarised the policies higher education leaders would like to see included in the political parties’ general election manifestos. Within the piece, Chief Executive of London Higher, Dr Diana Beech called on the UK Government to ‘adopt a more inclusive approach that “explicitly acknowledges the contribution of the UK’s world-leading creative arts, humanities and social science institutions to our research excellence”.’

The UK is a world leader in the social sciences, with social scientists significantly contributing, in numerous ways, to tackling the UK’s economic, social and environmental priorities. This is illustrated through much of the UK Government’s Areas of Research Interest being wholly or significantly related to the social sciences. Indeed, the Academy’s recent report emphasised the vitally important, yet often poorly-understood, role of the social sciences to the UK’s current research, development and innovation system, not least the value social science research brings to multidisciplinary areas of study including those primarily thought to be related to STEM.

The Academy’s Chief Executive, Dr Rita Gardner CBE, said, “While the UK’s talent pool has significant strengths in the social sciences, current UK Government initiatives and terminology have concentrated disproportionately on STEM related research and innovation. We know from the COVID-19 pandemic that the most effective outcomes for citizens are delivered where robust and objective evidence is drawn from across all disciplines – including the social sciences. The Academy supports the call for the UK Government to more explicitly recognise the UK’s multidisciplinary strengths and as such the value that drawing on social science research, alongside other disciplines, brings for policy outcomes.”

As part of the Academy’s work to understand how UK Government could utilise research evidence – including that from the social sciences – better in policymaking and implementation to benefit people, the Academy has recently launched a new project to explore structures, approaches and mindsets in UK Government and the potential opportunities for better harnessing social science evidence more fully, consistently and effectively.

Find out more about the Academy’s new project on Whitehall’s use of evidence to inform impactful policy.