Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

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The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) is an autonomous, non-governmental organisation devoted to the advancement of knowledge and research in the social sciences.

The objectives of the Academy are to:

  • promote excellence in the social sciences in Australia and in their contribution to public policy;
  • coordinate the promotion of research, teaching, and advice in the social sciences;
  • promote national and international scholarly cooperation across disciplines and sectors;
  • comment on national needs and priorities in the social sciences; and
  • provide advice to government on issues of national importance.


ASSA's functions were originally fulfilled through the Social Science Research Council of Australia, which was founded in 1942. A timeline of events leading up to ASSA's formation in 1971 is as follows:

  • 1942 – The Australian National Research Council (ANRC) adopts a recommendation that an Australian Social Science Council be established.
  • 1943 – The Provisional Social Science Research Committee of the ANRC is formed, and in the same year becomes an independent although still subsidiary body, the Social Science Research Committee (SSRC).
  • 1952 – A meeting of the SSRC resolves to make itself an entirely autonomous body, as had been anticipated when it was created. A draft constitution for the new body is accepted at a meeting of the ANRC, with all members of the Committee invited to become a part of the new Social Science Research Council of Australia (still ‘SSRC’).
  • 1953 – The new SSRC holds it first meeting. Membership of the council is 44.
  • 1956 – The Council considers seeking the status of an academy by royal charter, but resolves instead to be incorporated under Australian law.
  • 1957 – The SSRC is incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
  • 1970 – The SSRC adopts a recommendation that it become the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, resolving again to do so by incorporation rather than royal charter.
  • 1971 – The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia was incorporated on 7 July 1971.


As of 2017 there are over 630 Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA). FASSA are elected by their peers for their distinguished achievements and exceptional contributions made to the social sciences across 18 disciplines. On election, each Fellow is assigned to one of four panels, depending on his or her discipline:


The Academy is governed by a number of management and program Committees, principally the Executive Committee which meets three times per year.

From 1 January 2018, the Committee is composed of

Sub-Committees of the Executive include the Finance Committee, Membership Committee, and Program Committees.

Events, awards, and workshops[edit]

Each year, ASSA runs a series of events, which shine a light on the role the social sciences have in the public sphere.


The Annual Symposium is the highlight of the Academy’s calendar each year. Convened by one or more Fellows and held over a full day in November in Canberra, it is a public forum examining an important issue in the social sciences and/or public policy arena.[1]

The Academy also hosts a series of lectures over the year. These include, but are not limited to:

  • the Cunningham lecture — presented by an eminent social scientist as part of the Annual events immediately following the Symposium.[2]
  • the Fay Gale lecture — presented each year by a distinguished female social scientist.[3]
  • the Keith Hancock lecture — presented each year by a distinguished social scientist nominated by the Academy Fellows.[4]
  • the Paul Bourke lectures — presented each year by each recipient of a Paul Bourke Award.[5]
  • the Peter Karmel forum — held each year to provoke public discussion on a particular policy of Australian government, the policy making process itself, or comparisons of policies or policy processes found in Australia with those found in other jurisdictions.[6]


The Paul Bourke Awards for Early Career Research honour Australians in the early part of their career who have achieved excellence in scholarship in one or more fields of the social sciences. Such persons are normally within five years of receiving their doctorate, but allowances are made for career interruptions.[7]

The awards comprise a Citation and Medallion presented to each of the four winners at the Academy Annual Dinner. With the agreement of the winners’ home university, a jointly-sponsored lecture will be delivered by each of the winners during the year following receipt of the awards.


The Workshop Program is a principal component of the Academy’s promotion of excellence in social science research. Through the Workshop Program, the Academy facilitates collective intellectual work in the social sciences in Australia. Its aim is to position itself at the forefront of science science research, to identify issues of national concern, and to focus the attentions of specialists in the social sciences on them.[8]

The workshops are interdisciplinary gatherings of around 20 experts, primarily academic, but often also including government, community, and private sector representatives, as well as at least two early career researchers. They meet for two days to discuss and debate an issue of contemporary importance to the social sciences and public policy.

The Workshop Program has been recognised as providing an important arena for intellectual exchange and innovation, a mechanism for exploring connections between research and policy, and as a valuable means of supporting early career researchers. An indirect outcome of the program is the establishment of continuing research collaborations and networks, often multi-disciplinary in nature.

Other academies[edit]

There are three other learned Academies in Australia, those of Humanities (Australian Academy of the Humanities), Science (Australian Academy of Science) and Technological Sciences and Engineering (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering). The four Academies cooperate through the National Academies Forum, formed in 1995.


External links[edit]