Building Research Capability in Social Science (BRCSS) started life in 2003 as a capability-building initiative taken by former Associate Minister for Education Steve Maharey and led by Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley of Massey University. 36 research networks were formed, some of which are still operational today.

BRCSS was formed with two aims in mind:

  1. To build the capability of postgraduate and early career researchers with a particular focus on Māori, Pasifika, and New Settler research
  2. To foster collaboration between research networks

At the time the BRCSS network was unique to New Zealand for two reasons, the main reason being that it was the only social science initiative in the country that was developed as a deliberate collaborative effort between six New Zealand universities. In doing so it challenged the established competitive model underpinning much of the New Zealand university establishment’s operations and deliberately sought to further the Tertiary Education Commission’s agenda for greater collaboration between the universities.

At the time, the main funding bodies were The Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology (FRST), the Marsden Fund (Royal Society), and the Health Research Council (HRC), and the New Zealand Labour Party, who were in Government at the time. The funding lasted until 2009, where further funding from the universities allowed the formation of BRCSS II in 2010. Led by a small group including Emeritus Professor Dick Bedford, Professor Richard LeHeron, Associate Professor Robin Peace, Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Dr. Amanda Wolf, and Dr. Manying Ip, and continued the mission of capability building in postgraduate and graduate students. This is best shown by Tagaloatele Fairbairn-Dunlop’s Talanoa; spanning 12 universities through New Zealand and the South Pacific using new technologies to create a research community in Pasifika postgraduates. BRCSS II received further funding in 2012 from MBIE and MORST to rebrand as Engaged Social Science | Hui Rangahau Tahi (eSocSci), and continues with the support of The University of Auckland, Massey University, The University of Otago, and the Eleventh National Science Challenge, Building Better Homes, Towns, and Cities.

Further reading

BRCSS Survey Report: National Survey of Social Scientists 2006

BRCSS Report: Social Sciences and Policy-Research Use 2008

BRCSS Tertiary Education Comission Report 2009