The core of the Academy’s purpose is the recognition, enhancement and communication of excellence in research and scholarship in the social sciences. The Academy does this through a process of election to Fellowship for outstanding achievement in the social sciences – and through deploying the skills of those so recognised to share and interrogate ideas with eachother and with a wider community.
This year has seen the Academy consolidate and refocus our programs as we strive to achieve the greatest level of impact on matters of national importance and deliver value to our Fellowship and beyond. These goals are incorporated in our now updated Strategic Statement (pg 5).
We continue to engage with government bodies, research institutions, business and industry, and the community but there is always room to do more. In particular, the Academy faces the fundamental challenges and opportunities afforded it through major trends such as:
- demands for greater holism in knowledge, while preserving the rigour of disciplinarity
- internationalisation in the world generally and the world of ideas in particular
- balancing basic curiosity driven research with expectations of engagement and impact
- combining rigour and excellence with accessibility and wide communication
- the need to defend and advance academic rigour, independence and research integrity
In the year ahead, our programs and activities will focus on promoting the value of the social sciences working together and how social science research can enhance science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and humanities initiatives. We will achieve this through multi and interdisciplinary collaboration, Academy reports, engagement with institutions and Fellows, and a national communication and advocacy program. In this latter respect we will be continuing some of the interventions made in 2016 in areas ranging from government agency restructuring and research funding through program rules to data collection and access. And we will continue our extensive program of workshops, roundtables, and public lectures. We will also be rethinking how we link to our social science colleagues beyond Australia through like organisations and others, and with them share learnings on our research and scholarship, engagement and communication capacities, as well as reconsidering all such issues by our own review.
In this process, introspection will particularly look at:
- ensuring that the activities conducted engage the interest, enthusiasm and, thereby, the active participation of our Fellowship;
- improving balance and diversity in our Fellowship and location of activity into the future; and
- ensuring a strong and sustainable organisational and financial base.
To enrich our membership in 2015, the Academy welcomed 30 new Fellows, of which one-third were female (pg 70). This record number of successful candidates is a testament to the scholarly quality of social scientists being put forward for nomination. Equally, in 2015, the Academy recognized 23 Fellows who have achieved 40 years or more of Fellowship (pg 76). We congratulate these Fellows on their service to the social sciences. The collective efforts of all of these Fellows, young and a little less young, are together a huge contribution to our understanding of our world.
In sustaining our activities as an Academy and in diversifying our revenue to help ensure independence and balance, donations from Fellows and others are one of the important ways that ASSA seeks to fund its mission and provides us with a level of flexibility to fund innovative solutions for achieving our aims. We thank those who have made donations to the Academy this year for their generosity: Emeritus Professor Keith Hancock, Professor Henry Jackson, Professor Robert Lingard, Emeritus Professor Patricia Michie, Professor John Piggott, and Professor Garry Rodan.
At the same time we acknowledge the sad passing of seven ASSA Fellows. This year we lost The Hon Dr John Bannon, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton, Emeritus Professor Jack Caldwell, Professor Peter Hall, Dr John Hirst, Emeritus Professor John Legge, and Emeritus Professor Jim Perkins. Obituaries for these Fellows are included in this report (page 127). The Academy extends its condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of these great social scientists. We will miss them one and all. Vale.
As my own first year as President of the Academy comes to a close, I look forward to what we can achieve for our society during the remainder of my term and, of course, beyond. As president I am continuing the great work of my predecessor, Professor Debbie Terry. The Academy has been pleased to award Deborah the title of Honorary Fellow of the Academy.