Delivering impact for society: social science insights are vital to tackling societal challenges

Following the publication of our recent report, commissioned in collaboration with the British Academy, our Chief Executive, Dr Rita Gardner, has highlighted the need for social scientists to be more actively engaged in the policymaking process in order for the benefits of social science research to be fully realised.

Writing in Times Higher Education (paywall content), Rita drew on a variety of examples from the Research Excellence Framework 2021 impact case study database to showcase how university-based social science research is contributing to tackling societal challenges. From social scientists developing the “evidence-based policing” approach, which has been used by police authorities around the world resulting in changes to policy and practice, to complementing STEM research through enhancing satellite technology and its applications for monitoring global vegetation from space in near real-time, social science research is delivering tangible impact for society.

But how can we ensure the skills and expertise of social scientists are being used more fully in policy and practice? Rita argues for attention in three areas:

  1. For social science research to be better engaged, embedded and used in decision-making frameworks so that research outcomes can inform policy and practice further.
  2. The need to identify and facilitate scalable innovations from ‘research into impact’ to be adapted and applied in other places, scenarios and communities.
  3. Ensuring the pipeline of social science talent remains strong through a balanced school curriculum.

As Rita concludes, “As the world faces an increasing number of complex challenges, a thriving research and innovation system that draws on the strengths of all disciplines and continues to support successful, sustained and societally beneficial impacts could not be more vital.”

You can read the full piece on the Times Higher Education website (paywall content).

Please note, the link used in the THE piece is directed towards our other recent report, and not ‘The SHAPE of Research Impact’ which is what this piece refers to.