There is a critical yet under-explored role for the social sciences within the UK’s research, development and innovation system. This report argues that the social sciences can elevate this country’s research output to a world-leading level. There is, however, a danger of the social sciences being seen as an add-on or afterthought to STEM research whereby social scientists’ contributions are limited to identifying or ameliorating potentially negative ethical, legal or societal implications of scientific or technological advances. Our argument in this report is that social scientists have an essential role to play across the entire recipe - catalysing the development of new flavours - rather than simply being a garnish to a dish created by STEM.
Ideas from social science need to be incorporated into STEM research right from the beginning, thereby enriching our perspectives and understanding of global challenges. Case studies include how social science can help us to develop effective climate change policies, combat AIDS rates amongst young people in South Africa, and assess the impact of AI technology on human rights. The report provides a systematic overview of the ways in which social science can benefit STEM research:
1. Social sciences enable whole systems thinking.
2. Social sciences are critical for good policy development.
3. Social sciences underpin smart & responsible innovation.
4. Social sciences are essential to international collaboration and tackling shared global challenges.