Mental health, social science and the capabilities approach

by Richard Brunner

In the late 1990s, I did the hardest job I hope I will ever do: advocating for the rights of patients in a psychiatric hospital in one of London’s most disadvantaged boroughs.

What made it so tough? Whilst patients were usually pleased to have someone on their side, the hierarchies of clinical power made it hard for patients to get what they wanted. These were usually modest requests – perhaps escorted time outside the hospital grounds or changes to medication. But what made it even more challenging was what happened once people were discharged from hospital. They would generally return to the same difficult circumstances that had led to their admission in the first place; care plans and advocacy made little difference. And so I would see the same people admitted over and over again. Without knowing it, I was learning about the social and environmental determinants of health. Continue reading

Life, the universe and everything

by Alex Hulkes

Presumably ‘How many ways are there to travel between UK research council interfaces?’ isn’t a question that Douglas Adams had in mind when he was writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But there are seven research councils, which means that the number of directions that can be taken is 42 (that’s n(n-1) if there are n councils and the direction of travel matters). All of which serves merely to provide a preamble to this blog, which looks at one aspect of cross-council application behaviour. Continue reading

“Social science can be key to turning much research and innovation into effective action that improves outcomes”

by Martin Ince

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s new Chief Executive and Executive Chair Designate, explains her goals for the ESRC, her research background and how social science can help address global problems to improve outcomes.

Professor Jennifer Rubin has just become the ESRC’s Chief Executive and Executive Chair Designate. In April, the post will transform into Executive Chair of ESRC, one of the nine constituent bodies of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

She joins from King’s College London, where she is professor of public policy and was director of the Policy Institute at King’s. Continue reading

Why people believe in conspiracy theories

by Benjamin Lyons, Vittorio Merola, and Jason Reifler

Conspiracy theories are finally out of the shadows.

While that might be a bit dramatic, it is true that social scientists are beginning to pay more attention to conspiracy theories. As a result, we have an ever improving understanding of who believes in conspiracy theories, and why. Continue reading

AAAS and public opinion about science around the world

by Patrick Sturgis

Next week the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convenes in Austin Texas for its annual jamboree, showcasing new science for an audience comprising policymakers, journalists, and scientists. AAAS is the largest multi-disciplinary scientific meeting in the world, with this year’s programme covering topics as diverse as gene editing, space exploration, driverless cars, neuroscience, and quantum computing.

Continue reading