Research Themes

 Our current projects and research:

Maximising the impact of humanities and social sciences research

  • The full report is available here.
  • The research report, which contains case studies and more in-depth findings can be downloaded here

Britain needs a culture of public intellectual life so it can understand the huge benefits it gets from the study of humanities and social science, argues a report to the British Academy today (September 17th).

The report, from the LSE Public Policy Group, finds that humanities and social sciences (HSS) make big contributions to the economy, government and public life but that these are undervalued or even ignored. It argues that the first step to recognition must be for HSS subjects to precisely measure and record the difference they are making - for example, contributing between £16 billion and £22 billion to the UK economy each year. 

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, one of the report's authors, said: 'The problem was summed up by one academic we spoke to who pointed out that UK universities dominate the list of Europe's best but that our intellectual figures receive no credit or recognition for this achievement.

'It's primarily by accurately measuring and celebrating the enormous contribution of the humanities and social science that we can build up their public recognition and research funding. Many of us working in these fields have been too timid or fatalistic to challenge the sidelining of these disciplines.'

The report, Maximizing the social, policy and economic impacts of research in the humanities and social sciences, points out that HSS accounts for two fifths of UK university students but that the disciplines receive barely a sixth of government research funding. Large companies devote only around one twentieth of the research and development budgets to these areas - even where they have particular interest in public policy or consumer behaviour.

Too often, the study argues, public understanding of the 'knowledge economy' is restricted to science - even though social sciences should be increasingly important as both governments and companies turn to 'intelligent' or 'knowing' strategies for understanding how citizens and social groups really work. There are more than 27 recommendations in the report, which is based on interviews with more than 100 senior people from business, government, academia, media and civil society. It also surveyed 450 academics in HSS fields and conducted 10 in-depth case studies of areas where humanities or social science have had a great impact on public life.

The survey also asked contributors to rank the actual and potential impact of their subjects and in every category showed a marked gap between the effect the disciplines have now and the impact they could have.

Also among the recommendations are calls for humanities and social science to pursue business funding more aggressively, use digital data technology more effectively and to radically improve the ways in which higher degree students are trained.  

Citizen redress

A joint team from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford are researching 'Citizen Redress' in the UK.

For citizens who are attempting to put right what they see as wrong decisions made by government departments, agencies, and local authorities or NHS bodies, the process can be difficult, stressful, complicated and long. Especially in the earliest stages, access to information about how to complain, seek an internal review of a decision that seems wrong, or appeal that decision through the administrative justice system is likely to be a critical influence on whether or not potential seekers of redress successfully activate their rights.

This research project will look at how all aspects of the current complaints handling process currently works. It will consider whether ideas such as co-ordinated provision of initial information, early case handling and active case progression can improve the situation for citizens trying to put things right. The project will also look at how finding information on complaints and appeals in the 'digital era' has changed the process of initiating redress.

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