Health of Social Science

Current debates and recent work

With so much change and uncertainty affecting HE in recent years, the Academy has increased its monitoring and research to underpin advocacy for the sector and has established a forum to facilitate sustained dialogue with, and between, the senior leaders responsible for social sciences in universities.

The study identified several ongoing issues affecting research and teaching that needed to be addressed. In particular this included impacts on the research careers of PhD students/early career researchers; women with children; and mid-career academics holding significant project or institutional leadership responsibilities.

A number of warning signs were reported in terms of the future funding of the social sciences: the continued freezing of undergraduate fees; over-reliance on taught postgraduate student income from China; and access to European Research Council funding. The project was run jointly by the Academy and Lancaster University and grant-funded by the ESRC (UKRI).

The Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS) and the British Academy (BA) are working together to analyse the 4000+ case studies of the impacts of research in the social sciences, humanities and arts (SHAPE) submitted to the recent Research Excellence assessment (REF). The findings will be used to inform advocacy.

The impact case studies are a rich resource of the ways in which research is being used and having an impact in the wider world beyond universities. We are seeking to understand the stories, successes and cumulative effects on people, the economy, policy and society.

AcSS will be focusing on the social sciences aspects of the data and analysis while the BA will be focusing on the SHAPE collective and the arts and humanities aspects. The project is currently being tendered; with a tender submission date of 12 December 2022 and project final report date of 01 September 2023.

Community resources

  • Main Panel C (social sciences) overview report

    REF 2021 View
  • Impact Case Studies database

    REF 2021 View

Research Ethics

The Academy’s most recent work on research ethics in social sciences was as a partner in a European Commission-funded project, PRO-RES, which has produced a guidance framework that encourages policymakers and their advisors to seek evidence for their decisions from research that has been conducted ethically, responsibly and with integrity.

The foundations for this work date back to 2013 when three seminars and two conferences were held on the topic. This work was led by Ron Iphofen, Robert Dingwall, Helen Kara, Janet Lewis and John Oates, the members of the Academy’s Research Ethics Group. From this, five guiding ethics principles for social science research were developed, adopted by the Academy’s Council in 2015, and commended to its member Social Science Societies and the community of social science researchers.

The Emerald book series, Advances in Research Ethics and Integrity, and the Springer open access volume, Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, also had their genesis in this work.

Selected key texts are linked below.