To serve the public (2 of 2)

January 10, 2013

Universities play a key role in providing many professional qualifications but Jonathan Shepherd rightly highlights the need for graduate "practitioner-scientists" doing real-world research in our public services. Social science skills (such as economics, social policy, organisational behaviour) are in desperately short supply at this time of austerity across the public sector, when change management ought to be driven less by dogma and more by evidence.

When making decisions within the public sector, improved quantitative skills would not only make a positive difference to spending taxpayers' money or deploying the practitioner workforce efficiently but also to understanding the priorities of service users. This is the International Year of Statistics. For university research to provide "knowledge production and transfer", UK social scientists would do well to embrace international developments.

Shepherd's article is not up to date about one thing: the Economic and Social Research Council. Jointly with the Nuffield Foundation and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the ESRC is taking a lead on improving the applicability of social science, and the ESRC devotes a section of its annual magazine Britain in 2013 to public services.

National ambitions need to be matched by local innovation. At the University of Cambridge, for example, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities seeks to inspire new thinking about the "public benefit" with a series of lectures on active citizenship and public engagement (beginning on 21 January).

Woody Caan, Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health

Jerome Carson, Professor of psychology, University of Bolton.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry