Engaged Social Science in New Zealand / Des sciences sociales engagées en Nouvelle-Zélande

David Phipps, RIR-York

David Phipps (RIR-York) is a little obsessed with international aspects of knowledge mobilization. He blogged about his trip to the UK. He blogged about international examples of knowledge mobilization arising from a tweet chat. Here he writes about engaging the social sciences in New Zealand, which was absent from earlier writing.

David Phipps (RIR-York) est un peu obsédé par la question de la mobilisation du savoir à l’international. Il a blogué sur son voyage au Royaume-Uni ; il a blogué sur des exemples internationaux de mobilisation des connaissances suite à un discussion sur Tweet. Le voici maintenant qui évoque l’engagement des sciences sociales en Nouvelle Zélande, qui était absente de ses écrits précédents.

Flag of New Zealand

I bumped into @eSocSci on twitter recently. Their twitter profile describes them as “The new social science website for Aotearoa New Zealand”. Their website describes them as deriving fromBRCSS (Building Research Capability for the Social Sciences: Hui Rangahau Tahi) network was a highly successful online research community, developed to support emerging social science researchers in New Zealand’s eight universities. BRCSS demonstrated the value of networks and collaborative social science across universities – eSocSci extends these benefits to a wider audience.” eSocSci is hosted at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

With ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche’s interest in connecting research (not just social science research but much of what we connect is social sciences) to partners to generate, identify and progress strategic research priorities with public benefit, eSocSci peaked my interest. Again, from their website, “eSocSci facilitates research for innovation in social and economic policy, social services delivery, the community sector and business. We assist participants to identify social research gaps and future priorities through online forums and collaboratories designed to discuss research agendas. The key goals of eSocSci are as follows:

  • connect social science research with collaborators and users in other sectors
  • broaden relationships between and beyond the universities
  • profile research expertise, new research activities and emergent findings”

eSocSci has a focus on research done ‘by Māori, for Māori’ – a key similarity with much work with Canadian First Nations communities . This is also similar to a recent article that featured some of our work, “Nothing about us without us”.

Their members include universities and wānanga (a publicly owned tertiary institution that provides education in a Māori cultural context); research agencies and networks; central, regional and local government; non-government organizations; community groups; research advisory bodies; and funders. So they have membership from academic and non-academic partners which is key to achieve their mandate of connecting to a wider audience.

“Engaged Social Science︱Hui Rangahau Tahi (eSocSci) emphasises our role as an online knowledge space for facilitating engagement and collaboration in social science”. This appears to be a key difference in their work as theirs is an online space whereas the ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche universities use online spaces (such as O3 and Yaffle) as tools to support in person knowledge brokering and knowledge mobilization.

eSocSci logo

Some of their website is still under construction. But there are spaces for policy makers and community partners to request research be undertaken or seek for previously completed. They post events from their members and they have a chat forum so members can discuss different research and policy issues online. There are also spaces for profiles of research in disciplines such as communications, education, employment and diversity. This is similar to Memorial University’s Yaffle.

My only question to eSocSci is how they are engaging non-academic partners in their operations. All the staff and the steering committee members are university based. The majority of the partners appear to be university based except maybe Māori Association of Social Sciences.  If any members of eSocSci are reading this feel free to comment and let us know more about your group.

Knowledge mobilization is found around the world in developing countries and industrialized nations. There are growing numbers of university based services to create a more engaged academy. K* started a global conversation about knowledge intermediaries but few of the participants represented universities as institutions. Perhaps it’s time for universities to have a conversation about engaging scholarship to maximize the economic, social and environmental impacts of research.


One thought on “Engaged Social Science in New Zealand / Des sciences sociales engagées en Nouvelle-Zélande

  1. Thank you for your blog profiling eSocSci. It is useful for us to see other such connections internationally. You asked the question about:

    “…how they are engaging non-academic partners in their operations. All the staff and the steering committee members are university based. The majority of the partners appear to be university based except maybe Māori Association of Social Sciences. If any members of eSocSci are reading this feel free to comment and let us know more about your group.”

    Membership of eSocSci is open to social researchers and social science knowledge users. We have a considerable base of non-university membership that reaches into central and local government policy and public service delivery agencies, communityorganisations as well as business. We recently undertook an analysis of our reach into these non-university agencies through the use of the website, our membership and involvement in networks and were surprised by the level of engagement that does exist even after a short period (the website has been in operation since April 2013).

    We are currently building the strengths of our relationships with partner organisations – with the Māori Association of Social Sciences (MASS) as you have noted – but also with a newly formed partner network for government agency social scientists, and with a social scientist group in Crown Research (natural and physical sciences) agencies. These connections are not yet obvious through the website, but will be built up over the next few months. We aim to develop similar connections with researchers in community basedorganisations, and we are looking to reach out further to researchers in the business sector in the forthcoming year.

    You are correct in identifying that the current steering group is university based. In part that is an inheritance from the previous Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences structure. We are in the process of reviewing the governance of eSocSci and as you note, this will include other key partners such as the Māori Association of Social Scientists.

    Thanks very much for your interest. It is excellent to see the focus of the Research Impact blog and the cross blog of the “Bridging ‘Town & Gown’ Through Innovative University-Community Partnerships” (http://www.innovation.cc/volumes-issues/martin-u-partner4final.pdf) was very useful and will go up on our own website.

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