About the report

About the report

This report was developed by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in consultation with social science sector stakeholders during 2020 and 2021. It is intended to provide an overview of the social sciences in Australia to understand the nature and composition of the sector, and an understanding of the strengths, challenges and opportunities for the coming years.

The report is based on a combination of publicly available data and input from stakeholders who participated in consultations through roundtables, interviews, submissions and a survey during 2021.

More importantly, this report outlines a number of priorities that stakeholders agreed need to be progressed in the near future to unlock truly transformative impact in the social sciences sector.

Throughout the project, our priority was to understand and reflect the diversity and breadth of the social sciences in Australia, as opposed to a narrow focus on higher education. Consistently, we adopted a reflexive, wide-ranging, and inclusive process for consultation, data collection, analysis and review.

The Academy will continue to refer to and update this report, including through formal consultation with stakeholders on actions required to address a range of priorities for the social sciences in Australia.

Project Funding. This project was established and resourced by the Academy primarily using its own resources and reserves. We are grateful for support from the Australian Government by way of a 50% industry rebate on stipends provided to two project interns recruited through the APR.Intern program during 2020 and early 2021.

Project steering group:

  • Professor Mark Western FASSA (Chair).
  • Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark FASSA.
  • Professor Fred D’Agostino FAHA.
  • Professor Amanda Davies.
  • Dr Elise Klein OAM.
  • Professor Deborah Lupton FASSA.
  • Professor Peter Shergold AC FASSA.

Peer review. Drafts were reviewed by more than 30 expert stakeholders who provided valuable insights and feedback on different drafts.

Project team. The project was managed by a team comprising Academy staff and PhD interns:

  • Isabel Ceron (Intern/Policy Analyst).
  • Andrea Verdich (Policy Manager).
  • Mary O’Halloran (Intern).
  • Dr Chris Hatherly (CEO).

Ethics approval. The consultation and data collection for this report were deemed exempt from ethics review by the University of Queensland Human Research Ethics office.


Consultation on the report commenced in January 2021 with publication of a Discussion Paper. This paper presented a data-only, desktop view about the state of the sector, and encouraged stakeholders to offer more on-the-ground perspectives on identified issues.

Consultation comprised: (1) An online survey, open to the public; (2) Email or postal submissions; and (3) A series of round tables and one-on-one interviews.

The online survey was designed as a mix of open and closed questions, and responses were invited from over 20,000 social science researchers (via email and social media, among others). A total of 390 survey responses were received between January and March 2021.  

After the survey closed, the team conducted 10 online roundtables with social science leaders from across Australia, to dig deeper into the issues raised in the survey.

We have over 100 stakeholders from universities, schools, think tanks, VET, subject associations and industry to thank for hours of lively, robust discussion. Five additional one-on-one interviews were conducted to fill in specific information gaps. 

Public submissions

12 public submissions were recieved during the consultation and will be uploaded to this website following launch of the report where permissions was granted by the authors.

Stay in touch

This report has identified a number of challenges and opportunities for the social sciences over the coming years. The extent to which sector stakeholders can work collaboratively and collectively to overcome these challenges and embrace the opportunities will determine in large part the future of the social sciences in Australia.

An open change agenda

The Academy proposes to continue the process of stakeholder consultations that fed into this report, commencing in 2022. It will invite stakeholders to think carefully and engage critically with the findings of this report and the priorities identified, and to consider what concrete actions could be undertaken organisationally, within disciplines or collectively to advance the social sciences in Australia.

Biennial updates

The State of the Social Sciences report is a benchmarking exercise that the Academy hopes will be valuable to individuals and organisations across the social sciences.

The Academy plans to update this report periodically over the coming years with a view to tracking process, identifying what’s changed, and highlighting issues where further attention is required.

Engage and collaborate

We invite our readers and stakeholders to join the Academy in this process and to contribute according to their means and interests to ensure the Australian social sciences are robust, recognised, resilient and inclusive. More importantly: to ensure that social sciences can continue delivering valuable knowledge, insights and solutions to practitioners and professionals, students and alumni, to government and business decision makers and, ultimately, to society at large.


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