Chief Social Scientist post is high on policy-makers agenda, says Campaign

14 March 2013

Stephen Anderson

The issue of the reinstatement of the post of Government Chief Social Scientist is much higher on the agenda of policy-makers now, the Campaign’s Director, Stephen Anderson, has said.

Since its launch two years ago the Campaign has consistently spoken out for the restoration of the post, which was abolished in 2010.

Mr Anderson says that two recent developments have shown that this pressure is paying off.

The most recent development was that the government’s outgoing Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, suggested that an existing post in government be expanded to include the duties of a Government Chief Social Scientific Advisor.

He thought that the Departmental Chief Scientific Advisor post at the Department for Communities and Local Government, currently vacant, would be suitable for this.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 11 March on his time as Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Beddington said he regretted that the UK no longer has a chief social scientist, and that it left the UK in “a degree of limbo”.

“The specification [of the expanded role] would include the possibility for it to be a social researcher,” he said. “If that was the case, my strong recommendation would be that that individual then take over as government Chief Social Researcher [as well].” He noted there had been “a real loss” at the highest level when the post had been abolished in 2010.

In early March the government announced that it would set up a new post of What Works National Advisor to oversee six new centres set up to analyse social issues and decide upon the most effective policies to tackle them. The government made a commitment that the Advisor would consider the need for a Chief Social Scientist position.

Mr Anderson said: “We are very pleased that this issue has been raised at the highest levels. Without a Chief Social Scientist the government cannot be fully informed about the best policies to reduce crime, ensure social mobility and cohesion, run our cities, protect our countryside, get people to take climate change seriously, and much more.”

The Campaign has spoken out strongly for the restoration of the post. It gave evidence to an inquiry into departmental chief advisers by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, which issued a report a year ago calling for the restoration of the chief social scientist post.

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