2015 TASA Sociology in Action Award

Awarded to Alan Scott:

I am honoured to be the first recipient of this award by the Association, which recognises that sociology is used in the service of the community beyond the walls of academia. My first sociological studies were made in the late 1960s and in 1969 I was invited to take over ITIM Research. This was an opportunity that may not be repeated today, in that I didn’t have to worry directly about funding and was able to undertake studies that I initiated as well as accept work from other organisations. Since that time I have continued doing sociological research of one kind or another.

I see two significant differences between research inside academia and outside. The first is, that what you do in academia you own, whereas outside of academia much of what you do is owned by someone else and its publishing is up to them. The second difference is that your work in academia is subject to peer review, which is good because there is a good chance they will know what you are talking about, but it’s also bad if you happen to be challenging your reviewer’s pet theory, when you may not get a sympathetic response.

For those who work outside academia, what you do will mostly be judged by someone who usually has no idea what sociology is or does, and who has no interest in what theory you have used or how many citations you have squeezed in. Their judgement is made on whether you have solved their problem and was it worth the money they paid you. If they like what you do, you will get more work, if not, you may have a hard time getting more. These two very different criteria comprise the major difference between the work. To be in either place you have continuing interest in current sociological ideas, and how to use sociology for the work you are called on to do. Be brave, don’t be stifled by current dominant theories. The world needs sociology even if they don’t know it.

I hope this award will encourage continuing acknowledgement of Sociological work done in the community which is the same but different to that in academia. It does not produce the same number of learned papers but it does use the same knowledge to help the community become a better place.

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