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Role of Government Chief Social Scientist

The Academy of Social Sciences, which promotes the value of social sciences in the UK for public benefit, is the founding organisation for the Campaign for Social Science and the Campaign for Government Chief Social Scientist, a post that was abolished in 2010.

The Campaign for Social Science was formed in 2011 and this group of influential social scientist academics and policy actors is currently planning a major report ahead of the 2015 general election that will set out the contribution of social science to current societal and economic challenges.

The Case for a Government Chief Social Scientist

It is argued that given the contribution of social science to understanding the major societal and economic challenges we face such as climate change, rising obesity, an ageing population and social cohesion, the contribution of social science research findings should be made available to government in the same way that scientific research and advice is supported through the office of Chief Scientific Advisor. The role would bring together research from across social science, providing robust and independent advice.

There is now a ‘What Works’ National Advisor who is considering the requirement for a Chief Social Scientist position. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology issued a report in 2012 on Behaviour Change, which called for the restoration of the Government Chief Social Scientist post. Given the emphasis placed on behavioural change and ‘nudging’ by the current government, it is argued that a Chief Social Scientist would provide an independent perspective on the contribution from all social science disciplines to the work of government, providing an overview from across the social sciences and improving links between the social science academic community and government. 

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