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The Impact of the Social Sciences

The Impact of the Social Sciences
How Academics and their Research Make a Difference

February 2014 | 344 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

The impact agenda is set to shape the way in which social scientists prioritise the work they choose to pursue, the research methods they use and how they publish their findings over the coming decade, but how much is currently known about how social science research has made a mark on society?

Based on a three year research project studying the impact of 360 UK-based academics on business, government and civil society sectors, this groundbreaking new book undertakes the most thorough analysis yet of how academic research in the social sciences achieves public policy impacts, contributes to economic prosperity, and informs public understanding of policy issues as well as economic and social changes. The Impact of the Social Sciences addresses and engages with key issues, including:

  • identifying ways to conceptualise and model impact in the social sciences
  • developing more sophisticated ways to measure academic and external impacts of social science research
  • explaining how impacts from individual academics, research units and universities can be improved.

This book is essential reading for researchers, academics and anyone involved in discussions about how to improve the value and impact of funded research.

1. The Social Sciences in Modern Research
The scale and diversity of the social sciences

The social sciences and human-dominated systems

Perceptions of ‘impact’ from the social sciences

2. Social Scientists' Pathways to Impacts
The academic impacts of social science researchers

The external impacts of researchers

Profiling different types of academic and their impacts

3. Modelling the Determinants of Social Science Impacts
Multi-variate modelling of impacts

The factors shaping academic impacts

The factors shaping external impacts

4. Comparing Individuals' Impact
Using case studies of high impact academics

Explaining high impacts at the individual level

Pulling together the analysis

5. Business and the Corporate Sector
The range of university links with business

The scale of social sciences involvement with business

Barriers to greater use of social science research in firms

6. Government and Public Policy Making
Social science and the policy arena

The scale of social science links to policy

Social scientists’ influence on policy

7. Civil Society Organizations and the Third Sector
Civil society organizations and ‘advocacy coalitions’

The scale of social science research links to civil society

Growing the impacts of social science in the third sector

8. The Media and Public Engagement
Academic expertise and ‘the public’

Social scientists and conventional news media

Social science and social media

Innovating with social science and the media

9. The Dynamic Knowledge Inventory and Research Mediation
The dynamic knowledge inventory

The mediation of social science research

10. Social Science for a digital era
Joining up for a ‘broad-front’ social science

Re-framing human-centred disciplines and integrating STEM and social sciences

Towards a more global social science


The Impact of the Social Sciences is a very important book, because it shows the enormous impact the social sciences have made in business, government, and civil society. At a time when governments overly concentrate on science and engineering, they fail to understand that without the social sciences many of the physical science/technological advances would have little traction, particularly without an understanding of human and social behaviour and change. This is a must read for all, particularly decision makers in government and business.

Prof. Cary L. Cooper
CBE, Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences

The social sciences have tremendous impact potential. But in practice, our research community can take much more responsibility for generating a return on the public’s investment. Readable, relevant and evidence based, this book will inspire the research community to deliver greater impact.

Penny Young
Chief Executive of NatCen Social Research

Of all areas of academic research, the social sciences should be the most concerned with the question of impact, with how they affect the societies they study. This book is a valuable guide to the importance of social science research, and sets out a systematic approach to thinking about and measuring its different types of impact.

Diane Coyle
Enlightenment Economics & Smith School, University of Oxford

This ambitious, learned, and valuable book confronts fundamental questions about the scope of the social sciences, the character of its audiences, mechanisms of influence, criteria for assessment, and the impact of digital culture. Richly detailed and rigorously reasoned, this is a must read.

Dr. Ira Katznelson
President of the Social Science Research Council and Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University

The new book from the LSE is timely. It provides a rich, empirical account. It is based on analyses of staffing data, profiles of the outputs and impacts of a sample of 270 researchers drawn from online sources, reviews from universities' websites, interviews with 100 researchers proactive in identifying the impact for their work, interviews with potential research users, published surveys and case studies of research/practice linkages, and revenue flows to researchers. The book is jargon-free, well-structured, with clear tables and revealing graphics, and some pertinent and witty quotations - all in all a model of research communication. It is accompanied by a website and through its production, it has been accompanied by a blog which continues...This work is a valuable contribution to understanding the often fraught research/practice relationship.

William Solesbury
SRA Research Matters

Deceptively compact, this data-rich book covers an enormous amount of territory beyond the scope of this review, and is an ideal starting point for anyone who is looking for a broad overview of the story of the social sciences in modern research, and the current, rapidly changing landscape within which the research impact agenda is situated. Although critical of many of the ways in which the impact agenda is currently being implemented, the authors encourage social scientists to seize the opportunity to demonstrate how much the social sciences can contribute to the economy and society.

Michele Ferguson, The University of Queensland
Australian Review of Public Affairs

The attention and time devoted to assessing the impact of social sciences research on public policy have been minimal at best. There have been previous attempts by other authors to disseminate this information, but this text – The impact of the social sciences: how academics and their research make a difference – is the first time a coordinated approach has really been utilized to comprehensively assess this area. In an era of diminishing funds for research, the impact that works such as this could have on the value that society places in social sciences research is immense… Social science research in general has immense research impact potential but it is in the domain of the current and emerging researchers to embrace the opportunities that this text highlights in order to reestablish, at least in the eyes of the public, the value and importance of research into human action. This book should be regarded as a seminal study that breaks new ground in how academics disseminate and communicate their research.

Genevieve Hohnena, Murdoch University, Australia
International Review of Public

IMPACT is written in candid language and is well illustrated by figures and tablesenabling a wide audience to take advantage of its ideas and proposed courses ofaction. As a handy script IMPACT, taking advantage of the escalated recent progressin the various social science disciplines, opens new research agendas for social scientistsin order to relocate to a more meaningful field of study and research amongthe applied sciences. As such, IMPACT is a must for those involved in our environment,society’s wellbeing, economic growth and in orderly spatial development.

Baruch A. Kipnis, The University of Haifa
Geography Research Forum

The research design is a wonderful example of quantitative and qualitative research, with the modelling of the determinants of impact done to a high level of sophistication and the case studies to a rich level of detail. The section on the demand for social science research amongst users shows a thorough knowledge of the policy process, as well as a good understanding of the variety of different kinds of beneficiaries who might be interested in social science research.

John D Brewer

Use it for course in Fall 2014.

Use first part to explain academic construction of knowledge.

Mr Elias Ortega-Aponte
Graduate Division of Religion, Drew University
April 6, 2015

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