Social animals?

April 4, 2003

Social scientists' lack of engagement with wider public debates ("Social sciences need to find ways to share", THES, March 28) is not solely their responsibility.

The format for dissemination of research findings to "end-users", a requirement of Economic and Social Research Council-funded projects, may not necessarily be appropriate to wider public scrutiny.

As for setting agendas for public debate, there is competition from print and broadcast media whose agendas are driven by political and entertainment agendas. These are often antipathetic or downright hostile to the practices of social scientific research.

It will also take more than media training sessions and a website to solve the problem of researcher reluctance to deal with the media.

Social science research is very often about rethinking the obvious. This involves a degree of sophistication and complexity in concepts and methods that is ill-served by reduction to a 300-word newspaper column.

Rachel Woodward
University of Newcastle upon Tyne

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