“We hear a lot these days, and rightly so, about the importance of the Stem disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There is broad understanding of the need for strong research in these disciplines, to deliver talented individuals and new thinking, and to underpin a vibrant enterprise sector and an informed society …” (more)
[Orla Feely, Irish Times, 28 May]
It is refreshing to hear the endorsement by Prof Orla Feeley (VP Research and Innovation, UCD) of the importance of research funding for the social sciences. In a context where there is frequently little interest in evidence based policy making and a total pre-occupation with ‘machines’ of various kinds, the realities of people, structures and power are all too frequently ignored. In some of our universities, there is very little interest in Research Offices in facilitating social science research funding applications, not least because the amounts available are often very modest. The exclusion of such areas from the research priorities of some of our universities effectively leaves many social scientists on the margins of their own institutions. An obsession with metrics from the web of science as a criterion of research excellence in some organisations further legimises the neglect of such areas.
As Prof Feeley points out, ultimately technologies are used/not used in social contexts by people. It appears however that neither the Irish state nor much of university management has actually learned the lessons of for example the e voting machines. Prof Feeley is I understand Chair of the Irish Research Council and in that context has an important role to play in for example, providing Ph.D funding to students in the social sciences; funding Post Docs etc. EU funding such as that won by FESTA in UL is an important indicator of the kind of interdisciplinary research that can be done by STEM academics and social scientists working together on topical issues such as gender inequality. Prof Feeley’s words need to be heard- and translated into action.