‘Devolution for Wales has created a social policy institution and the National Assembly does the things that social scientists think about every day’, said Mark Drakeford AM, speaking at the Academy’s annual President’s Lunch, held this year at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. He recalled the ‘very good’ recent launch event for the tenth issue of the ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences’ series, which focussed on impact made by a wide variety of research carried out in Wales. It showed practical social science application, he added, before warning that, although one can see the impact of the social sciences on the way policy is developed and practised in Wales, this is not a relationship to be taken for granted. ‘We have to go on working at it all the time’, he said before adding that there are enormous advantages to both sides from doing so.
He noted that Welsh universities had performed well in the REF partly, he thought, because of the closeness between government and HE in Wales. ‘Government couldn’t make evidence informed policy if it weren’t for both research and the translational ability which is something that social scientists have always been at the forefront. Working at the relationship between academia allows information to flow.
Over 140 Fellows of the Academy and guests welcomed his words and were keen to learn more about the secrets of the good relationship with government that the Welsh research community enjoys.
Following specially arranged tours of the National Museum’s wonderful collection of art – in particular the Davies Sisters’ bequest focused on major impressionist works – the Academy’s President, Sir Ivor Crewe FAcSS, welcomed everyone to the event. He thanked Dame Teresa Rees FAcSS and Professor Rick Delbridge FAcSS for bringing the event to Cardiff and helping to make it such a success. Representatives of the GW4 group of universities (Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Cardiff) joined the Learned Society of Wales in participating in this celebration of social science. ‘The Academy is needed more than ever to make the case for publicly funded research,’ said Sir Ivor, noting that the current proposals for reform within HE mean that the future of publicly funded research remains uncertain. He added that Government needs to be persuaded that high-minded principles need to be translated to practical policies on the ground. ‘The Academy will continue to lobby government on behalf of its Fellows and learned societies,’ he said.
David Anderson, the National Museum’s Director General, welcomed everyone and spoke about how social sciences and museums had been too casual acquaintances. Museums form part of an invisible universe of learning, along with libraries and other public institutions – and people in the 19th century understood that, with such results as the Davies sisters’ bequest. He regretted that Wales – blighted by poverty and social exclusion – was closing libraries and museums. He was currently working closely with social scientists at Cardiff University to discuss these issues and called for more social scientists to engage with the ‘invisible universe’.
The event was kindly sponsored by Taylor and Francis, publisher of the Academy’s journal Contemporary Social Science, and their new Global Publishing Director, Leon Heward-Mills spoke about the advance of open access publishing. He noted that disruption is, by its very nature, unsettling but urged researchers to use technology for better outcomes and dissemination of research. Publishers help with the increasing importance of impact, he added, by helping researchers to engage with a wider audience.
The President then presented certificates of Fellowship to several new Fellows.