Social policy in the European Union has developed rapidly in recent years, following the 2000 Lisbon Summit and the subsequent adoption of National Action Plans on Social Inclusion and a set of common social indicators for all Member States. This paper describes European initiatives and examines the role played by social science research in these developments. It refers specifically to the role of theory and conceptual analysis, to the availability and quality of data, and to policy modelling. It draws lessons from the experience of European social policy for the relationship between research and policy formation.
Revised version of 13th ESRC Annual Lecture. A copy of the full Lecture can be obtained from the ESRC website (http://www.esrc.ac.uk).