What is social science?

What is social science?

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 of 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.

They also work with other researchers in different fields such as biology, engineering, physics, medical science and environmental science.

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 of 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.