Exaggerated Claims?
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Exaggerated Claims? : The ESRC, 50 Years On

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"David Walker's analysis is incisive and hard hitting. Anyone who believes in the power of social science to inform better policy making should take his criticisms seriously."

- Sue Duncan, Former Chief Government Social Researcher and Head of the Government Social Research Service


"David Walker has written an unofficial summary of ESRC's achievements and struggles. He brings to the task long experience of the organisation and of the key players, a great familiarity with the literature and a sceptical nature. The result is stimulating, instructive, contentious and sometimes even infuriating."

- David Rhind, Chair of the Nuffield Foundation



What is the role of the state in distributing research money? How do 'arm's-length' funding agencies relate to public policy and business? This original study looks at the main social science funding agency in the UK, which was established 50 years ago. It examines how funding decisions are related to power. The 'critical' and `policy' aspects of successful research bids are discussed. Walker asks the tricky question, why has social science research not achieved a more salient role in state policy formation and management strategy: is the funding agency responsible?



Insightful, engrossing and highly original, the book will be required reading for anyone who has written or will write a Social Science research bid and, more widely, for students of power, knowledge and culture.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 128 pages
  • 148 x 210 x 12.7mm | 310g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1473942233
  • 9781473942233
  • 2,659,243

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The ESRC Today
Chapter 3: Promise and disappointment
Chapter 4: Reprieve and normalisation
Chapter 5: An agent of amerlioration
Chapter 6: Academic capture
Chapter 7: Cumulative knowledge?
Chapter 8: Conclusion
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Review quote

This book is a rather unique beast, both in style and scope. The author, a long time Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) committee member, has taken it upon himself to offer a personal critique of the role and function of the ESRC. I found it an interesting and thought-provoking read... I would definitely recommend this book to those interested in the policy and politics of social science research. -- Kirby Swales This book looks at the role of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and its relationship with academics, non-university researchers, policy-makers and government... This erudite, eminently quotable and thoroughly iconoclastic book tells the story of opportunities lost; it is not an account of unequivocal failure. It is also about much more than the ESRC, as Walker has issued a clarion call to all those who believe in interdisciplinary working. -- Paul Webb David Walker has written an unofficial summary of ESRC's achievements and struggles. He brings to the task long experience of the organisation and of the key players, a great familiarity with the literature and a sceptical nature. The result is stimulating, instructive, contentious and sometimes even infuriating. -- David Rhind David Walker's analysis is incisive and hard hitting. Anyone who believes in the power of social science to inform better policy making should take his criticisms seriously. -- Sue Duncan David Walker offers a characteristically sharp-minded - and sharp-worded - verdict on the first half century of the UK's research council for the social sciences, once the SSRC now the Economic and Social Research Council. If he privileges policy research over other forms, and focuses on relationships with Whitehall (and the 'public') over those with universities (and social scientists themselves), that does not diminish the power of his critique. If the vigour of his analysis and ability to stimulate controversy may tend in the eyes of some to undermine his own thesis that the social sciences have been marginalised, others will see these same characteristics as proof of the social sciences' enduring creativity - and challenge. -- Peter Scott More a critique than celebration... 50 years of ambiguity, missed opportunities and muddling through. Walker captures the enduring tensions that have characterised ESRC - and UK social science more broadly. A `must read' for all social scientists, especially those who want to influence the next 50 years. -- Jonathan Grant
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About David Walker

David Walker was a council member at the ESRC where he chaired the methods and infrastructure committee. Formerly managing director, public reporting at the Audit Commission, he is a member of UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Committee.

During a career in journalism and public affairs, he worked for The Times Higher Education Supplement, The Economist, The Times, the BBC and the Guardian, where he was founding editor of Public magazine.

His books include Cameron's Coup: How the Tories took Britain to the Brink, The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain?, and Unjust Rewards: Exposing Greed and Inequality in Britain Today (all co written with Polly Toynbee), Sources Close to the Prime Minister (with Peter Hennessy and Michael Cockerell) and Media Made in California: Hollywood, Politics and the News (with Jeremy Tunstall).
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