Social Science Methods Improve Social Policy

Policy makers use social science
Policy makers often use social science. Data by Jane Tinkler. Image: Social Science Insights

Governments see that social science methods are highly useful in drafting social policy and to improve workplace practices. We contribute by using a range of case studies and statistical analyses.

A survey by Jane Tinkler from the London School of Economics finds that 19% of USA policy makers use social science arguments daily in their work; a further 53% use social science a few times daily or at least monthly; and 21% said they use it at least once a year.

In a government or business context, social scientists use ethnography to study individuals and groups interacting in their everyday lives, with the purpose of improving policies and procedures. We do this through specialised case studies.

How Social Science Helps

Ethnography: Methods used to study people interacting in their everyday context.
Ethnography: Methods used to study people interacting in their everyday context

Ethnography describes a range of research methods to study people in their “natural” setting, be it at work, during their leisure or family time, or in community settings.

This involves attending public events, observing community behaviour and gathering other information to assess how people react to social situations. Researchers will also interview and survey people during social and work functions in order to get a critical insight into group dynamics.

Ethnography has been used in many contexts: to evaluate social services; to plan public infrastructure; to address the needs of employees; to assess public #health issues; to improve environmental policies; to better integrate culturally diverse groups; and much more.

Case Study: Crowd Behaviour

Social science supports urban planning
Social science supports urban planning

Social policy makers need ongoing research into the social behaviour of crowds. This is partly about urban planning, such as management of landscapes, improving infrastructure, decreasing traffic congestion and so on. Governments also need to understand crowd behaviour because local communities need to improve social service delivery.

Cities often have big influxes of people flowing through daily, presenting cultural challenges, increasing demand for emergency response, or requiring new information. Governments also sees a need to increase safety in busy areas. This is why many places have laws about what constitutes loitering, often unfairly targeting youth or applying stereotypes of #minorities.

Social Science can help by providing social insight on how different crowds behave and advising how to improve services so that local council, social policy and law enforcement aren’t marginalising vulnerable groups.

We improve the collection of statistical data and we also contribute to social models, such as mathematical or computer models that can examine the impact of different social dynamics  on crowd behaviour.

Social science methods improve social policy
Social science methods improve social policy.