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Opening Of The Social Science Research Centre

Hon Steve Maharey Speech Notes

Opening Of The Social Science Research Centre, University Of Canterbury

Vice Chancellor, Professor David Thorns, invited guests, friends and colleagues.

It is both a pleasure and an honour to participate in the opening of this Centre today. On a personal note it is particularly poignant, because, as many of you will know, I am, by profession, of this place – a sociologist and a social scientist.

These days I ply a new, but not unrelated trade – Member of Parliament, and most recently, Cabinet Minister in what I like to think of as a progressive social democratic Government.

Reflecting on my own career I was interested to see a section on the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s web site, under the heading, The Discipline of Sociology. It is a section headed, “Where sociologists work”. Let me quote:

“Some sociologists work in government departments … others are involved in policy development and analysis ... others teach in schools, polytechnics and universities … others work in local government … some work for trade unions … others are employed by private sector research organisations, [and, wait for it], some even make their way into parliament …”

That’s right, some do and I am delighted that you have invited one of them back today.

Seriously, this Social Science Research Centre is about my kind of social science. Like so many others of you here today the discipline of Sociology engaged me because it was exciting and liberating. And it engaged me because it had, and still has a strong normative dimension – both in terms of the development of bodies of theory, and in terms of a robust empirical research.

Those qualities are reflected in the goals of this Centre – the pursuit of theoretically grounded, empirical social science research, the dissemination of research findings for public debate and policy development …

And it is those qualities, reflected in the goals of this Centre, that also inform this Government’s ambitions for tertiary education.

Leaving aside the issue of resourcing – and I will do my very best to ensure that the sector is properly resourced – those reforms are about a tertiary education system and an academy in which we see inter and intra institutional cooperation and collaboration. They are about lifting the quality and relevance of research. And they are about respecting and protecting the responsibility of the academy to meet its obligation as critic and conscience.

I started on a personal note, and let me end on one. This Centre will be a credit to those who lead it, and those who contribute to its streams of work (and you have an impressive group of academics involved). But it is also a credit to, and indeed and embodiment of, the disciplinary ethic of those that have built the Department in which it is located –people like the Department’s first PhD graduate, Cora Vellekoop Baldcock, like Richard Thomson, and like Bill Willmott.

And so, today, in the best traditions of Sociology, we celebrate yet another manifestation of the Sociological Imagination.

I wish the Centre well, and I look forward to the fruits of your ‘imagining’ informing a transparent and robust process of public policy development.


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