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Social sciences worth an estimated £24 billion to UK economy

Social science is now big business in the UK, according to new research which shows that the sector is worth approximately £24.3 billion a year to the national economy. 

This figure is the collective economic value of social science teaching and research in UK universities (£4.8 billion a year) plus the costs that the financial sector, business corporations and public sector agencies spend on employing professional social scientists to mediate or translate academic research into their organisations (at least £19.4 billion a year).

Impact of social sciences coverThe impact of the social sciences is outlined in a new book due to be released this week by the London School of Economics and Political Science, drawing on research from Cambridge Econometrics.

The Impact of Social Sciences: How Academics and their Research make a Difference puts forward a strong case for additional funding and calls for closer integration of the social sciences themselves, and far better co-operation with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

LSE researchers argue that despite receiving just 8 per cent of Research and Development (R&D) funds nationally, and 12 per cent of the total research grants flowing to UK universities, the social science sector is punching well above its weight in economic terms, both locally and globally.

Across the world, rough estimates suggest that around 20 million people are either employed in university social science departments or are students in these disciplines.

An additional 20 million professionals – working for governments, public agencies, major business corporations, consultants, civil society organisations and the media – make regular use of social science research in their work, the authors estimate.

The findings have emerged from a three-year project by Professor Patrick Dunleavy| and his colleagues in LSE’s Department of Government, who have mapped for the first time the size and scale of social sciences in the UK and their influence across all sectors of British society.

The book is the result of this project and is officially launched at LSE on Wednesday 29 January|. It analyses the significant impact of social sciences research on government, business, the non-profit sector and the public, arguing that the sector deserves a much bigger slice of the R&D funding pie.

Between 30-40 per cent of all UK university research takes place in the social sciences domain, providing answers to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Yet the effectiveness of social scientists has often been decried,” says Professor Dunleavy.

The social sciences need to work much closer together with STEM disciplines and medical sciences to tackle looming scientific and policy changes facing the world,” he adds.

Co-authors Dr Simon Bastow| and Jane Tinkler| also urge the social sciences to embrace unprecedented changes in scholarship and research in the digital era.

“Making use of ‘big data’ can greatly speed up the pace of research and deliver recommendations whose economic value can be quickly established in digital arenas,” the authors say.

“Social media and the growth of multi-author blogging sites are also highly effective forms of knowledge exchange and offer huge potential gains for high quality research to be speedily disseminated.”

The Impact of Social Sciences: How Academics and their Research make a Difference will be published on Thursday 16 January. The launch on Wednesday 29 January |coincides with a panel discussion of the issues raised in the book.

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For further information about the book and the launch, please contact:

Professor Patrick Dunleavy on 020 7955 7178 (LSE) or 01908 646922 (home office), or at p.dunleavy@lse.ac.uk| .

Candy Gibson, LSE Press Office, on 020 79557060 or pressoffice@lse.ac.uk| 

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