Social Science Parks

18 August 2013

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, writes about her vision of Social Science Parks:

Universities have always sought to engage with the communities which surround them. Whether this is through education relevant to the changing society or research to address particular problems of the day, we have adapted and changed our disciplines, our approach to teaching and our focus for research.

In the last few years despite an increasing focus on links with ‘industry’, ‘impact’ and ‘employability’; there has been stronger encouragement for universities to engage further with those around them.

That is not to say there are not issues which need addressing. Many people still feel universities are unfriendly and only for students and the people who work there. Research continues to need to address issues of ‘users’ and ‘subjects’ and questions of power relations between the ‘researched’ and researchers’, but I see a shift in attitude, a real desire to engage amongst all my colleagues at Lincoln. For some time now science parks (where academics and industry relate and work together) have been created on or near university campuses.

At Lincoln we are developing a different concept of a ‘Social Science Park’.  As we build our campus we are seeking to create a new building for our social sciences at the interface of the city and the university.

As we develop the design we brought together third sector employers, the city and county council, social welfare professionals and campaign groups to encourage them to contribute to the design of the building and to evaluate whether they would like to co-locate in a ‘Social Science Park’ with our academic colleagues.

It is an exciting project, one which I am sure will have its challenges but it is a different way of engaging with Impact, Research and Teaching; bringing in users of research, graduate employers and potentially co-researchers from the Social Science employment sectors together with our academics.

We are in the very early stages of this development but I am excited about its future. I believe it is an important part of the future of the social sciences at least at the University of Lincoln.