Trinity Academic Symposium Debates Research, Public Policy and the Journey of a Journal from the Famine to the Digital Age
Posted on: 17 May 2007
“There is significant potential for greater collaboration between Government Departments and Universities in the formulation of Government policy,” said the Assistant Secretary at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Gerry Donnelly, at the Trinity Academic Symposium on May 16th last.
Mr Donnelly was speaking at the Trinity Academic Symposium 2007, the theme of which was the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland (SSISI). The Journal of the SSISI documents 160 years of economic and social policy debated by its members. The SSISI, an all-Ireland body of academics, public servants, members of the press and legal profession, was founded in 1847 in Trinity College Dublin.
The Trinity Academic Symposium comprised three sessions: The Historical Significance of the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, the Open Access Revolution and Public Policy Partnerships.
Speaking at the session on the ‘Public Policy Partnerships’, the Assistant Secretary at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Gerry Donnelly said:
“In order for public servants to provide high quality policy advice to Governments, they must have access to the skills, research capability and other resources necessary to the job. One approach to achieving this is to build collaborative ventures between Government departments and our universities and third level institutions.”
“Such ventures have the capacity to provide public administrators and policy makers with access to the required resources without undermining the independence of the process. This approach will also assist the administration in reconciling the demands of policy making with that of managing and accounting for performance,” concluded Mr Donnelly.
During the same session, the Assistant Director General with responsibility for Social and Demographic Statistics at the Central Statistics Office, Gerry O’Hanlon said: “The availability of high quality statistical data on economic and social conditions is a fundamental prerequisite for ensuring an effective partnership between policy makers and academic researchers in contributing to the development and monitoring of public policy.”
Speaking at the session on the ‘Historical Significance of the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland’, Professor Mary E. Daly, College Principal, UCD College of Art & Celtic Studies said:
“The motto of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland is ‘Our Pole Star is Truth’, and this confidence that an objective truth could be arrived at, by a process of collecting data – both quantitative and qualitative – was a core belief of statistical societies in the mid-19th century.”
Drawing on material in the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland from the 1930s, Professor Eunan O’Halpin, TCD Professor of Irish Contemporary History, School of Histories and Humanities, cited in his presentation the continued significance of the Bank of England in Irish financial affairs in the 1920s and 1930s.
However, Professor O’Halpin argued that the study of these aspects of Irish economic and political history was severely hampered by the Central Bank of Ireland’s continued difficulty in opening its historical records. This contrasts with the position with Bank of England records in London, where researchers can see Irish related material from the same era.
“Excessive secrecy is the enemy of understanding, in economic, as in other areas of recent Irish history,” commented Professor Halpin.
Speaking at the session on the ‘Open Access Revolution’, Professor Jane Grimson, Computer Science, TCD reviewed current emerging policies in Europe on open access publication and how they may impact on researchers in Ireland.
Professor Grimson discussed this in the context of research funding agencies in Europe which are now considering that researchers funded by them should deposit publications arising from their research in open access repositories.
TCD’s Assistant Librarian, Niamh Brennan, who was responsible for the digitalisation of the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, discussed the importance of open access e-publishing to Trinity College Dublin and the future plans for the TARA Archive and the Journal. In its 160th anniversary, the Journal is coming home to Trinity College Dublin. Thanks to the Society and TCD Library the 1,300 papers and the proceedings of the SSISI will now be freely available online on the TCD Tara Archive (http:// www.tara.tcd.ie) for students, members of the public and academics. SSISI member, Dr Miriam Hederman O’Brien launched the online journal at an event in the Long Room in the Old Library after the symposium.
The Trinity Academic Symposium was chaired by Professor Patrick Paul Walsh, Dean of Social and Human Sciences, TCD and co-organiser of the event. Commenting on the significance of TCD’s digitalisation of the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, Professor Walsh said: “This is a rich resource of economic and social policy debates that have taken place in Ireland since 1847. The 1,300 papers which have been digitalised by TCD library documents Ireland’s journey in policy making, with respect to land, agriculture, banking, industry, education, emigration and immigration, health, housing, labour and industrial relations, unemployment, taxation and pensions among many other topics.”
The Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland was founded during the Famine years in House 16, Trinity College, Dublin, in the rooms of William N. Hancock, then Whately Professor of Political Economy, where a small group discussed the need for such a Statistical Society. The motto of the Statistical Society became ‘Our Pole Star is Truth,’ driven by a belief that good economic policies can only result from the scientific objectivity provided by statistics.
Since then the Society organises six or so public meetings each year at which papers are read followed by an open forum discussion. The Society provides a unique meeting ground for discussion between decision-makers in business, public service, trade union, academic and research communities. The proceedings of the Society are recorded in its annual journal, dating from 1847.