UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Academy of Social Sciences publishes report by lead author, James Wilsdon, UCL STEaPP

19 January 2024

The report, titled “The Secret Sauce of Social Science”, explores the contributions and interdependencies of social science and STEM research within the UK research and innovation system.

James Wilsdon holding a bottle of sauce at ACSS

In the report, published on the 18th of January by the Academy of Social Sciences and Sage, lead author James Wilsdon, Director of the Research on Research Institute (RoRI) and Professor of Research Policy at UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP), argues that social sciences are a ‘secret sauce’ that contribute four ‘ingredients’ to the UK’s research and innovation ecosystem:

  • Social sciences enable whole-systems thinking
  • Social sciences are often vital for good policy development
  • Social sciences underpin smart and responsible innovation
  • Social sciences are essential to international collaboration and tackling shared global challenges

James Wilsdon said:

The insights and expertise of social scientists add flavour, depth and richness across the UK’s research and innovation system. Through their own work, and through collaboration with scientists, technologists and engineers, social scientists contribute in numerous ways to tackling economic, social and environmental priorities. But in recent years, there’s been a narrowing of focus in UK Government policy to Science and Technology, and less of the holistic, systems thinking that captures and values such connections and interdependencies. This needs to change: it’s time to restore the social sciences to their rightful place in the way we structure, plan and invest for a high-performing, transdisciplinary research and innovation system, capable of meeting the acute challenges of the next 20 years."

The report is available to download from the Academy of Social Sciences.

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R&D depends on a special ingredient by James Wilsdon