Professor Neil Pollock was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. Neil is Professor of Innovation and Social Informatics at the University of Edinburgh Business School and he is interested in digital futures, innovation and entrepreneurship. His research sits at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies, Information Systems, Organisation Studies and Economic Sociology.
Through a number of ESRC fellowships and grants, Neil has pioneered the Biography of Artefacts and Practices (BoAP) approach and cast new light on the shape and workings of the digital economy. He has co-authored three books – Putting the University Online, Software and Organisations, and How Industry Analysts Shape the Digital Future – and co-edited two further collections – Thinking Infrastructures and Market Studies. He is currently working on a new book entitled After Hype: The Business of Taming the Digital Economy.
Neil was awarded the James G. March Prize by the European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS) in 2022 for his co-authored article ‘The Biography of an Algorithm’, and his co-authored article ‘Figuring out IT Markets’ received a 2023 best paper award in Information Organization. He has also been nominated for a 2023 Association of Information Systems (AIS) award.
More broadly, Neil has sat on several funding panels, including an EPSRC grant assessment panel on Speculative Research, a UKRI-Taiwan joint panel, and a UKRI-Japan joint panel on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Society. Neil is passionate about assisting and developing early career academics and has been a co-organiser of the EGOS PhD Colloquium for the last five years. He is also an Associate Editor at Information and Organization and on the editorial board of Accounting, Organizations and Society.
Why do the social sciences matter?
There has never been a more important moment to be a social scientist, especially as we confront and attempt to understand significant new challenges, such as the potential and problems brought about by AI technologies. To identify and mitigate their possible adverse effects, especially for people most exposed to and vulnerable to AI, it will be crucial to develop a distinctive social science understanding of these technologies.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Digital technology is constantly evolving, which means my work is always at the forefront of change. This keeps me intellectually engaged and challenges me to adapt my research methods and theories to address emerging technologies and their societal implications.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
If the social sciences are to understand and influence the development of AI, this will require new methods and approaches. With colleagues at Edinburgh and elsewhere, we have been working on the Biography of Artefacts and Practices (BoAP) approach. Social scientists urgently need to develop further approaches like this geared to understanding the specifics of contemporary technology like AI.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
Becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences holds great significance to me. I am delighted to have achieved this recognition and consider it a privilege to actively contribute to the Academy’s mission of championing the essential role that social science plays in comprehending and reshaping our world for the better.