Two men and two women standing at a white wall
Photo Credit: This is Engineering image library Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve just read a recent article in the Economic View section of the New York Times. The article asks What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

I liked the quotation from Michèle Lamont, a Harvard sociologist and president of the American Sociological Association:

‘Once economists have the ears of people in Washington, they convince them that the only questions worth asking are the questions that economists are equipped to answer.’

And Herbert Gans, an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia, makes the point that there is a risk that there is something of a vicious cycle at work.

‘When no one asks us for advice, there’s no incentive to become a policy field.’

It’s likely that if specialists from a discipline are not in the conversation then they won’t be able to help frame questions and will struggle to influence the policy and product or service. It made me think of the wisdom in point three of the UK Government Digital Service’s Digital Service Standard.

‘Have a multidisciplinary team
Put in place a sustainable multidisciplinary team that can design, build and operate the service.’

When people from a range of disciplines, backgrounds and experiences work closely together, the understanding of the context, the approach to research and data sources are richer. Consequently there’s the potential to develop and improve a policy or product that is more likely to meet user needs.

A multidisciplinary team