A picture of people in discussion.

Science into Society

The Science into Society Group applies social science expertise to understand human response to nationally-identified challenges, connecting stakeholders with the knowledge emerging from the latest scientific research. The Group has expertise across a broad range of social and natural sciences, and specialises in interdisciplinary research at the interface between science and society.

  • 22 June 2011 | Updated 9 October 2013

Overview

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Rationale

Cultural and social pressures, economics, globalisation and technology can all induce change in our environment and human systems.

Our human and societal responses to those changes are multifaceted.

The Science into Society Group is interested in understanding both the drivers of change and their effects in a number of areas:

  • the emergence of new technologies
  • the management of our limited resources in the face of increasing demand
  • changes in our environment, in particular our climate
  • the security of energy for Australia
  • evolution in our social systems
  • the delivery of human services.

Links between technology and society

A triangle diagram depicting societal uptake of energy technologies.

See reference below.

Society and its relationship to science, technology and innovation are governed by a set of complex interactions.

Successful innovation, in the way we live, in the way we use technology and in the way we interact with each other requires an understanding of this complexity and of the behaviours and attitudes that drive social interactions.

Core capabilities

Our core capabilities include: 

  • Assessing the impact of technology: by considering the environmental, economic and societal context for a new technology, evaluations can be made on the intended and unintended consequences of developments and their impact for society.
  • Establishing a social license to operate: through engagement, dialogue and monitoring, shared benefits to all stakeholders of an enterprise can be identified, facilitating a social license to operate and hence enhanced sustainability.
  • Understanding and modelling social systems: by observing society as a dynamic and complex system, to inform planning and policy decisions greater resilience can be achieved. 
  • Motivating positive behaviour change: by promoting durable changes in a range of lifestyle and work practices, more sustainable and positive ways of living can be delivered for Australians now and in the future.
  • Exploring pathways to connect people and policy: by enabling increased networking between policy-makers, scientists and society, alternative futures can be explored and pathways towards preferred solutions can be co-designed.

Methods

These capabilities are delivered by drawing on a range of methods developed through the social, communication and biophysical science domains, and combining them for a particular context or application.

These include:

  • consultation and engagement (interviews, focus groups, large group processes and major forums)   
  • social impact assessment    
  • behavioural intention analysis      
  • qualitative and quantitative surveys and evaluations
  • statistical analysis
  • foresighting
  • social network analysis
  • life cycle analysis
  • media and rhetorical analysis
  • visualisation techniques.

Niemeyer, N. and Littleboy, A. (2005). "Societal Uptake of Energy Technologies: A framework for examining social responses to energy technologies in Australia Energy Futures", Report No. P2006/30, CSIRO, Brisbane Australia.