Social scientists engineer plan for representative academy

November 28, 1997

Social scientists are planning to create their own academy to stand alongside the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The council of the Association of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences (ALSISS), which represents 24 subject groups, last month discussed draft proposals for an academy drawn up by a working group led by ALSISS chair Tony Chapman, pro vice chancellor of Leeds University.

An implementation group, headed by Nigel Gilbert, president of the British Sociological Association and pro vice chancellor of the University of Surrey, will meet in January 1998 to start work on plans for the academy. It is hoped that the academy can start in 1999.

Professor Gilbert said: "It is evident that a body is needed to represent the interests of social science, to tell government, business and society in general what the social sciences can do."

He said that the British Academy could not do this. "It is not the fault of the academy, but it was set up in 1911 when the shape of academic life was very different. It is primarily intended to serve the interests of the humanities, which it does very well."

The BA's structure and constitution prevented adaptation to provide a similar service for the social sciences, Professor Gilbert said.

The working party reports envisage several categories of membership. Learned societies affiliated to ALSISS will have institutional membership, and there would be perhaps 300 elected academicians and a larger group of ordinary members.

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