Operational Research as a Social Science

  • Lynda Davies


This conference is the second of its kind with the first being some twenty-five years ago. The proceedings from the first conference did not deal with operational research as a social science but rather showed a concern for showing how operational research may be used as a form of applied social science (Lawrence, 1966). It is a sign of growing self-awareness that this second conference sees the notion of operational research as a social science to be one which is worthy of consideration and debate. This session is particularly concerned with that debate and that is why the title is posed as a question. Can operational research be considered as a social science? If so, what mode of scientific inquiry is it pursuing, either implicitly or explicitly? It seems that operational research has become more aware of its social attributes, particularly in relation to the effects of changes which it may introduce into organizations and societies. This may not be acceptable to all as a mode of social scientific inquiry. The distinction between restricting usage to seeking to know (science) and the application of knowledge to the purposeful acts of change (technology) is one which is seen to be of particular relevance in this session. Any reflection upon operational research as a social science should be willing to challenge its status as such considering the intentions of operational research as a method of inquiry into social life, or as a means of creating change in groups, organizations, or societies.


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  1. J.R. Lawrence, ed., “Operational Research and the Social Sciences” Tavistock, London, 1966.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynda Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.Management Development and Organizational Research DivisionThe Management School University of LancasterUK

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