Recognizing social work

I Shaw, H Arksey, A Mullender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been little interest until recently in the question of whether social work has the characteristics of an academic discipline. This article offers a synopsis of issues arising from a review of social work and social care research funded through the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Following a brief scene setting, the first main section of the article gives a synopsis of the social work and social care community's experience and judgements regarding their engagement with the research council. In the second part of the article, we review relevant policies, structures and trends from an ESRC and social science perspective. We focus on the development of research programmes, followed by an outline of the delivery and implementation of programmes. In the final section, we review the issues, themes and directions that emerged from the project. These include judgements of research relevance, research users, research utilization, the social work contribution to the development of research methods, inter-disciplinary research, the question of whether there are distinctive attributes of social work research, research capacity, career building, priority setting, and the outcomes of social work funding bids. We also reflect on the development and delivery of research programmes, and the implications of the invisibility of social work research within the ESRC. Disciplines within universities are not fixed and abiding realities. 'Recognizing' social work is a dynamic, socially negotiated process, shaped by the construction and ordering of knowledge claims within social work and social science communities, and reflecting power differentials that are mediated through structural mechanisms that tend to exclude new 'claimants' such as social work. We include a number of recommendations, and suggest ways in which the issues may have relevance beyond the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-246
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • social science
  • ESRC
  • social work
  • research
  • discipline

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