Welsh Ministers show their support for social science

26 November 2015

‘Social science research is alive and making a difference’, said Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Assembly. He was speaking on 25th November as the tenth issue in the Academy and Campaign’s series of booklets celebrating the impact of social science research: Making the Case for the Social Sciences was launched in Wales, following a Westminster launch earlier this year. He talked about discussions at the Welsh Government’s health committee, where social science questions form a key element of the debates: the nature of evidence, how it is constructed, how it is weighed up, how to see if something has worked, what indicators are looked for. In talking about the Nurse Staffing Bill he noted that work from Cardiff University had been very influential.

Having worked both in academia – at Swansea and Cardiff Universities – and in government, he had witnessed at first hand, he said, the problematic issues that can affect the relationship between the two. ‘An event like today is important – physical presence matters’, he said, ‘being in the room, talking to people, being there at the point where a decision is made’. One of the problematic areas arises because the beat of government is fast, whilst that of academic research is, of necessity, slow and careful. Understanding the needs of either side is vital in bringing the two worlds together.

Wales is well placed to show impact as every day the work from academia is seen influencing the work of the Assembly, he added.

The aims of the Campaign for Social Science in promoting the use of high quality social science evidence to shape policy, foster innovation and illuminate societal changes, are aims that the Welsh government ‘wholeheartedly supports’ said Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business in the Welsh Assembly, speaking via video. ‘We look to social science to help build and shape our understanding, she added. Warmly welcoming the booklet and its celebration of the impact made by Welsh research, she noted the Welsh government’s commitment to research, especially evident in the recent establishment of the Public Policy Institute for Wales as part of the UK network of What Works centres.

Ian Rees-Jones, Director of WISERD*, noted that the success of WISERD as one of the biggest interdisciplinary organisations in Britain is a sign of the strength of social science in Wales. ‘We are very fortunate in Wales to have a listening government,’ said Judith Phillips Director of RIASS**, but noted that it was imperative that social science institutions work together in Wales to support the endeavour.

The audience then listened to presentations from three contributors to the booklet, who talked about their work on public opinion and devolution; improving the way police investigate homicides – including in the USA; and how welsh research persuaded the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer that, despite apparent validity of localised pay for state run organisations, the evidence showed the opposite.

Audience members asked the government to let their Vice Chancellors know when their work is used – not everyone is fully aware of the extent of social science’s impact, they said.

Download the booklet in PDF form here. Hard copies in either English or Welsh can be requested from the Academy office.

*WISERD = Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data & Methods at Cardiff University

**RIASS = Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences at Swansea University