In the ten years since publication of the 1993 White Paper, 'Realising our Potential', considerable attention has been paid to the users and uses of social science. The debates generated from this include the development and revitalisation of the concept of an 'interactive social science' which integrates knowledge production with the wider issues of its significance and use. Positive interpretations of the benefits of interaction, often cast in terms of influence and social responsibility, are countered by more negative anxieties about academic freedom on the one hand and 'scientific capture' on the other. In all of this, the qualities and characteristics of interactive, yet critical and engaged social science remain contested.
There is no doubt that research councils have made considerable effort to involve and engage users, and applicants for ESRC funding are asked to say how 'users' have been involved in the development of projects and proposals. Yet there is one rather significant area of academic-non-academic interaction that falls outside contemporary debate and analysis. This has to do with the formulation of research questions and agendas:
Where do social science research questions come from and how are 'users' involved in defining timely, worthwhile, innovative and relevant lines of enquiry?
Running from 30th June 2004 to 29th June 2006, this project addressed these questions through a series of workshops, involving participants representing a wide range of knowledge and research producers, funders and users. The first five workshops aimed to identify how social science research agendas are shaped across a variety of different contexts. The final seminar focused on drawing out implications for policy and practice.
This website provides further information on the six workshops and includes links to background papers, presentations, video interviews and reports relating to each.
This project was funded by the ESRC RES-024-26-0002 and was led by Elizabeth Shove and Chris Harty at Lancaster University.
Project Proposal (36 k)
Summary Report (24 k)
Bill Dutton interviews Paul Wouters, Virtual Knowledge Studio, Amsterdam
William Dutton, Elizabeth Shove, Chris Caswill group discussion
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