The Campaign: one year on

30 January 2012

Cary Cooper

In January 2011, the Campaign for Social Science was launched in the House of Lords. One year on Cary Cooper, Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences, spoke to socialsciencespace about the first year of the campaign and its plans for the future.

How successful has the campaign been on raising the profile of the social sciences?

The campaign has been very successful. The campaign is about public engagement, it’s about the contributions the social sciences can make to the important issues of our time; whether issues about aging, climate change, well-being, or the riots in the UK last summer.

Every year we do three Making the Case for the Social Sciences reports on a topic, we bring together stakeholders in that field, including politicians of different political persuasions, non-profit organizations (e.g., Age UK), and some of the academics working in those fields. Since the campaign started we’ve had twelve road shows throughout the country at different universities. We held a spontaneous one-day conference in October on what social science says about the complex nature of the causes that underpin the riots with perspective from psychologists, sociologists, and economists. We’re also trying to get the appointment of a Chief Social Scientist, and our evidence has already been quoted by the House of Lords Science and Technology community.

We’ve raised over £100,000 in our first year, with contributions from universities, and SAGE has backed us with a campaign officer for two years. What we’re trying to do is promote and get public engagement on the value and importance of social sciences, and to do this we need to raise our own money as we have no core funding. We need to be like CaSE, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, who raise sufficient money to fund a core team to engage with government and others on the importance of the physical sciences and engineering.

How can social scientists engage with the campaign?

Social scientists are engaging with the campaign by coming to our road shows, and we want to help social scientists to engage with the public. We are also putting together directory of social scientists so that we bring them together with government and other parts of the public sector. For example, we are currently working with the Government Office for Science in helping them source scientists for their Foresight and other programmes . We can also source scientists for the media, we need scientists who can actually talk to the media, and can successfully share the important work that is happening in the social sciences and the contribution it can make.

We’re out there on all fronts. We are very proactive, and with a campaign officer we are going to use all social media where appropriate to highlight research that is currently being done. We think it’s important that the producers of social science, i.e., the academics, should be communicating with the users of social science.

What does the future for the campaign hold?

We have more Making the Case for the Social Science reports, with the next topics being on mental well-being what organizations look like and the impact of social science in Scotland, where it is sometimes done differently. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from a common mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, and stress, whilst the need to grow the economy and get more jobs raises questions about the kind of workplace and managers we need for the 21st century for growth for the future. Both important issues to which the social sciences can contribute.

We also keep going on having road shows in different parts of the country, and in July we have another major conference, bringing together the producers of social science together with the users to see how we can uses the structures, processes and channels of communication to foster greater dialogue, participation and engagement.

I think really a long term goal is to become a kind of Royal Society of Social Sciences, to be perceived as so valuable that when government does have some funds available it will help us with some core funding. . We have to remember that the Academy of Social Science has only been going for a dozen years, whereas  other learned bodies that the government does support handsomely have been going much longer. Nonetheless we have to have to communicate the importance of the social sciences to our community.