Knowledge about social behaviour and institutions underpins notable advances in economic growth, technological innovation, health, education, good governance and the quality of life, but it also helps to understand why public policy sometimes fails to improve our lot. Much of this knowledge is either taken for granted or, increasingly, reduced to metrics of impact that belie the complexity of knowledge communication and influence.
The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia’s 2016 Symposium—Social Sciences: Understanding policy impacts, considers alternative ways of demonstrating the impact of the social sciences for Australia. It does so informed by international comparisons, such as the impact agenda pursued under the UK’s Research Excellence Framework which accounts for 20 per cent of that assessment exercise, and similar moves to evaluate impact under discussion in Sweden, Netherlands and elsewhere.
With leading social science researchers, senior government officials and industry experts participating in this symposium, discussions will identify the wide range of contributions and benefits made by the social sciences, and consider how these benefits can best be communicated to various audiences. The one day symposium will produce a concise document, reflecting on the proceedings and making some recommendations for how we might better assess the impact of social science research on public policy.