Times Higher Education warned recently of a “stark choice” of where spending cuts must be made as a result of the government’s spending review (“Hobson’s choice? Not if we can help it”, News, 16 May). One of the options discussed was cutting the science and research budget.
The Academy of Social Sciences has recently completed its submission to the government as part of the review process, and in it we advise that maintaining spending on our disciplines is vital. We point out that it is not just science, technology, engineering and mathematics that contribute to the UK’s wealth: in fact, the social sciences play a vital role in bringing scientific discovery into widespread use.
We argue that without an understanding of the social, economic, political and cultural processes underlying innovation – both in its development and its adoption – our future economic growth will be jeopardised.
The point is that a well-supported body of social science research helps policymakers invest more wisely in the future and deters ineffective spending. Through cost-benefit analysis, social scientists can demonstrate value for money, savings to the public purse, and social as well as economic gains from particular policies and practices.
We list some examples, including work on cybercrime and its prevention, and research by the London Business School on ensuring that companies use innovative practices throughout their businesses.
Although social science receives only 6 per cent of research council spending, its output is important for all six of the research areas the government has prioritised: global uncertainty, environmental change, the digital economy, ageing, energy and global food security. UK social science research is rated as world-class and cost-effective – we must maintain this invaluable asset.
Director, Academy of Social Sciences
Chair, Academy of Social Sciences