Social Sciences – The lynchpin for conducting real-world research?

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Illustration of a head with thoughts coming out

Guest blog post by Professor Kieran McCartan, Professor of Criminology, UWE Bristol

All research, even theoretical research, has a real-world basis. Research helps us understand the world and our role in it better. Therefore, at the core of all research conducted at UWE Bristol should be people and social life. The social sciences, therefore, are central in developing and adapting a range of different research ideas, methodologies, and products so that they have real world validity and can be used more effectively in practice. The social sciences are the study of social beings, social lives, and social interaction; they are the disciplines that connect our psychological, social, and cultural worlds. The social sciences provide context, and understanding, to our behaviours and actions. This means that all research has a social component to it – whether it be Engineering or Art, Food Technology or Fine Print, AI or Architecture – because humans, and the human experience, are at the heart of all these.

This increased recognition of the importance of the social science perspective is reflected in the external funding landscape. More and more funding calls with ‘hard science’ remits require that academic teams include those from the humanities and social sciences to bring this much-needed perspective to addressing the challenge at hand.

At UWE Bristol, we research a range of social sciences and in doing so add nuance to policy and practice, which means that we can add to ongoing and novel research across a number of disciplines. Our research strengthens external research bids, adds new dimensions to research and publications, and expands the parameters of UWE Bristol’s role as a civic, community based, practice-based university. Social scientists are spread and integrated throughout the UWE Bristol academic diaspora – you find them in every faculty and department.

However, the largest congregation is gathered in the Department of Social Sciences, in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, where the Social Science Research Group (SSRG) is based. The SSRG has over 91 members drawn from disciplines as wide as Philosophy, Sociology, Criminology, Social Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Psycho-social studies, Politics, International Relations, Policing, and Social Work. The SSRG is split into five themes with cross cutting, qualitative research methods expertise:

  • The World, Meaning and Human Action research theme investigates and employs the interaction between philosophical thought and cultural, political and critical practices, with a particular emphasis on the collective project of human flourishing.
  • The Global Security and Human Rights research theme draws on work on global security, human security, human development and human rights. Key cross-cutting dimensions are around gender, health, governance, security, human rights, exclusion, vulnerability and resilience, and migration.
  • The Crime Risk and Society research theme gives voice to the experiences of victims, offenders and professionals within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and critically engage, challenge and inform criminal justice policy and practice.
  • The Psycho-social Studies and Therapeutic Practices research theme studies the way in which psychic experiences and social life are fundamentally entangled with each other.
  • The Identities, Subjectivities, and Inequalities research theme is a collective of researchers who focus on exploring the ways in which identities, subjectivities, and inequalities are produced by exploring how individuals make sense of their selves and the worlds they inhabit as well as on wider social practices and discourses.

How can the SSRG, and social sciences more broadly, add to your research moving forward?

  • Maybe you need to conduct social research (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) to preface, support or evaluate the impact of your research or product?
  • Maybe you need access to and representation from diverse populations to test your product or innovation?
  • Maybe you need advice about how to approach and work with frontline professions so that your research can be implemented in the community?
  • Maybe you need support in working with policy makers so that your research and innovations get used in practice?
  • Maybe you need a social, cultural, or psychological lens to add nuance to a new or ongoing project?
  • Maybe you need to understand why different communities, cultures, or populations react differently to the product or innovation that you are developing?

We live in a social world where people are the core users of much of the research and innovation developed at UWE Bristol, therefore the social sciences provide a lynch pin for bringing in expertise to make sure that all the research done at UWE is applied and fit for purpose.

If you are a social scientist interested in joining the SSRG or a colleague at UWE Bristol interested in collaborating with SSRG members please reach out.

Prof Kieran McCartan, UWE Bristol