Multimedia publication demonstrates vital role humanities and social sciences play in tackling the challenges of our time

12 Feb 2014

The British Academy has launched Prospering Wisely, a multimedia publication and series of events that aim to kick-start a national conversation about the place of humanities and social science research in our society.

Prospering Wisely argues that we need to think about the nature of 'prosperity' in much broader terms than its usual purely financial definition. Drawing on expert views from influential academics such as Nicholas Stern, Mary Beard and Peter Hennessy, it explores the many ways in which 'prosperity' is dependent on the ways the humanities and social sciences enhance our lives, as individuals and as a society.

Lord Stern, President of the British Academy, says: "Prosperity stretches way beyond material income or consumption. It is how we live, how we interact with each other, what our sense of community and identity is, and how we manage uncertainty and anxiety.

"The humanities and social sciences are about challenging, being awkward, asking difficult questions and contributing to policy making. They're crucial in sustaining our healthy, open democracy, in promoting our well-being as individuals and communities, and in driving forward new ideas and innovation in our increasingly knowledge-based society.

"The value of our role in society is strong and deep, but it has to be explained more clearly. We need strong academic research to push forward our understanding of identity and society, and  help policy makers grapple with the difficult choices we face – from climate change to our steadily ageing population to how to restart economic growth. The British Academy is ideally placed to provide a forum for and help drive a new kind of national conversation."

Illustrating the argument at the heart of Prospering Wisely are a series of video interviews with eleven leading academics whose research has been highly influential in a variety of fields. They are: Professors Jonathan Bate, Mary Beard, Vicki Bruce, Conor Gearty, Hazel Genn, Anthony Heath, Peter Hennessy, John Kay, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Adam Roberts and Nicholas Stern. Longer interviews with each have been simultaneously published in a special issue of the British Academy Review. 

To mark the publication of Prospering Wisely, the British Academy is launching a series of free public events – starting on 12 February with a panel discussion chaired by Melvyn Bragg. In Prospering Wisely: How can research address the big issues of our time?  he will explore with  Mary Beard, Peter Hennessy and Lord Stern what prosperity does – and ought to – mean, and how the humanities and social sciences contribute to it.

This will be followed by three series of 'The British Academy Debates', public discussions around the UK which explore some oftoday's toughest challenges. The first series of three events will look at aspects of Ageing and the implications of a steadily ageing population, and will be held in London (26 February), Sheffield (25 March) and Edinburgh (29 April).  Further series will then follow on Immigration and Well-Being.

Prospering Wisely is available at More information on the events can be found online at Prospering Wisely: How can research address the big issues of our time?and on The British Academy Debates webpage and #bigdebates.

Contact the press office

For further information contact the Press Office on [email protected]  / 07500 010 432.

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