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SEMINAR POSTPONED UNTIL FURTER NOTICE – Voices, arguments and influence in social policy

18 February 2020
12:30 - 00:00

An HSRC priority initiative

Date:  18 February 2020
Time:  12h30 – 14h00
Venues:  Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town Livestream via Vidyo

Speaker:  Professor Rob Watts RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Discussant: Prof Crain Soudien, CEO, HSRC (TBC)

Chair: Dr Andrea Juan, Research Specialist, Education and Skills Development

How do social scientists legitimately influence policy? How do we bring evidence to contexts that are both complex and ever-changing? As academics and advocates is it enough to offer scientific evidence, or do we need to raise our voices, improve our arguments and craft new and intentional strategies to influence social change?

In this seminar, Professor Rob Watts, explores a strand of his work over a 15-year period, interrogating the production of policy in the Australian context. The intensely human and political nature of the development of social services and programmes means that policy is produced in discursive spaces that are as much political as they are ‘scientific’. Even the notion that policy is or should be based on ‘evidence’ is fraught with people, politics and values. While policy-making has become dominated by biomedical and managerialist discourses that demand ‘evidence’, the meaning and practice of ‘evidence-based policy’ is contested. Evidence is underpinned by the ‘design of arguments’ used to identify and critically assess evidence-based claims. A wide range of phenomena should, properly, count as evidence, due to the irreducible richness and complexity of social reality. In the final part of the seminar Watts explores his recent work with the Australian unemployed workers union and their campaign for a regional green jobs guarantee. He offers some thoughts on how South African researchers might reimagine their roles in supporting and influencing the production of policy, especially as it relates to policy around youth education, employment and livelihoods.

Rob Watts is Professor of Social Policy in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. He has published scholarly books, chapters and articles on a range of sociological and political topics including explorations in good practice, developing a human rights culture beyond the law, children, young people and a new political imaginary, asylum seekers and the crisis of authority in the Australian university. His most recent books include States of Violence and the Civilising Process (2016) and The Precarious Generation: A Political Economy of Young People (2017).

Kindly RSVP by 17 February 2020

Pretoria: HSRC Video Conference Room, 1st  floor HSRC Library, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria.
Contact Arlene Grossberg  | T: (012) 302 2811  | E:
Cape Town: HSRC Video Conference Room, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town.
Contact Shouneez Khan| T: (021) 466 7948 | E:
Durban: HSRC Video Conference Room, The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001.
Contact Ridhwaan Khan  | T: (031) 242 5400  | C: 083 788 2786  | E: or Wiseman Mbambo E:

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DSI. Please also note that this seminar may be recorded and published on the HSRC podcast channel.