Report: social sciences are ‘secret sauce’ essential for UK innovation

    Social sciences are the key ingredients to ensure research and innovation in the UK are fully optimized – that is the finding of a new report by the Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS), which has been co-authored by Digital Science using data from Dimensions

    The report – titled ‘Reimagining the Recipe for Research & Innovation: The Secret Sauce of Social Science’ and sponsored by leading academic publisher Sage – was commissioned to provide guidance to policymakers, universities and research managers in understanding the value add social sciences can bring to STEM research areas.

    The report is being launched at an event in London today where the vital yet often poorly understood contributions of the social sciences to the UK’s research and innovation system will be discussed.

    The secret sauce itself comes in the shape of four key ingredients:

    1. Social sciences enable whole-systems thinking 
    2. Social sciences are critical for good policy development
    3. Social sciences underpin smart and responsible innovation
    4. Social sciences are essential to international collaboration and tackling shared global challenges.

    Key to the development of the report was the use of Dimensions, the world’s largest collection of linked research data. To understand the breadth and depth of collaborative research in the UK, the report’s authors employed ‘out-of-the-box’ elements of Digital Science’s Dimensions’ database, specifically: Landmark research analysis, focusing on citations of cross-disciplinary research involving social science and STEM; cluster analysis, based on existing published work in relevant areas; and research trajectory analysis for STEM, social sciences and cross-disciplinary research from both.

    The aim of the report is not only to highlight the crucial role and value that the social sciences offer to research and innovation in the UK, but to provide evidence to decision makers to encourage policy initiatives that better facilitate research and partnerships that cross STEM and social science disciplinary boundaries. For example, Dimensions data shows that social science research makes a significant contribution towards exploring the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), surpassing STEM inputs across several individual SDGs (see figure 7).

    Commenting on the release, co-author and Digital Science VP Research Evaluation and Global Challenges Dr Juergen Wastl said: “The report is a mixture of data-driven work and analysis, and the examples shared in the report showcase the essential role social sciences play in areas often regarded as purely STEM-focused, as well as the amplifying effect collaborative work can have across STEM and social science fields. 

    “Research that involves partnerships across these areas from the start can have a stronger impact and be more useful to policymakers.”

    The report’s co-authors are Kathryn Weber-Boer, Digital Science’s Technical Product Specialist, Dimensions & Altmetric; Prof James Wilsdon FAcSS, Professor of Research Policy at University College London (UCL) and Executive Director of the Research on Research Institute (RoRI); and Dr Ed Bridges, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the Academy of Social Sciences.

    See the full report at the Academy of Social Sciences website.

    The report is also available from Sage Publishing: