What is social science? An animated overview

What is social science? An animated overview


They came up with the idea that became the
National Health Service. They shaped the growth of the welfare state,
providing a safety net for those needing a helping hand. And they helped the Bank of England deal with
the financial crisis. Who are these people – the ones behind some
of the most important changes to Britain in the last century? Social scientists, that’s who. Their research covers the full span of human
behaviour, from economics to education, sociology, geography, linguistics and social anthropology,
psychology to social work and even business and management studies. They look at how society works, how we react
and adapt to changes, why some things succeed and others don’t. Social scientists do their research in different
ways. Sometimes they set out to prove or disprove something in particular – other times they
come across new and unexpected findings when doing basic research. The Economic and Social Research Council is
the UK’s largest funder of social science research. And to ensure the research we fund is of high
quality, all research applications undergo peer review; that is, they are quality checked
by other experts and social scientists, which means the research questions, design and findings
will be of the highest standards and quality. This ensures the findings are reliable and
useable. Some social science research uses large-scale
research projects. These follow groups of people through their lives over many years.
The results can help all of us including government, ministers, and even businesses and charities
understand how society changes and the impact this can have on individual lives. This long-term work has helped us discover
the effect smoking during pregnancy has on the development of children, identify the ‘scarring’ effects repeated
unemployment and poverty can have, and what impact living in a lone-parent
family can have on a child’s future. The social sciences are all about understanding
the way humans behave and interact with each other, helping to make our society a better place
to live.

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