The social sciences are a group of likeminded academic disciplines that share the common instincts of understanding the human behaviour of individuals, their wider social groupings and networks, and the institutions they have contrived to govern and provide for the national population and their place in the wider world.
The social sciences take up extraordinary challenges that affect people through the full course of their lives. Some disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and education can focus with precision on the needs of individuals while keeping track of the social and physical context of the lives those individuals lead. Other disciplines such as demography, economics, social medicine, statistics, and anthropology may find their strengths best exercised and utilised in addressing the pressing issues facing entire populations. Still other disciplines such as political science, law and management may concern themselves mostly with institutions, those structures at the heart of how Australians govern themselves. The disciplines also blend and mix in multidisciplinary collaborations to develop solutions and innovations for these challenges.
Above all, the social sciences work for the public. They do so by providing information that is based in rigorous research and which lends itself to the formation of wise and effective public policy. High quality research in support of public policy is crucial. No government or instrumentality can do its best in the absence of the detailed knowledge that it needs in order to best serve its mission and its people. That research, with its data and analyses, is the basis for the utility of the social sciences in service to the national interest. In addition, the social sciences do more than try to assist government and its institutions – they also strive to inform business, community groups, and the wider public.