Social ScienceMātauranga Pāpori


Social science enables us to deliver people-centred research across our four Science Themes.

We are working to better understand people’s perceptions and values, identify the impacts of new practices and technologies and ensure effective discussion about key science issues and opportunities.

What is social science?

Social science supports our understanding of how society functions and explores the interfaces between people and geological resources and processes. Social scientists study people’s values, beliefs, cultures and governance and economic structures as well as society’s interaction with the natural and physical world around them. It aims to understand the drivers of human behaviour, such as gender, culture, class and power relations. Social science and its range of disciplines can assist with achieving science impact by:

  • Identifying pathways for co-producing research that is useful, useable and used
  • Enabling effective knowledge exchange with decision-makers and communities
  • Ensuring that stakeholder and community needs inform our research
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of our work
  • Carrying out science in a way that uplifts, engages and empowers communities 

Social sciences in our science themes

GNS Science has a long history of leadership in natural hazards risk management research, which relies on social science insight about risk communication, preparedness and building community resilience.

Today, social science has an increasing presence in the Energy Futures and Environment and Climate Science Themes, with core Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) support for advancing our social science understanding and capacity in these themes. Many new projects are underway, exploring concepts such as social licence, policy frameworks and dynamic adaptive pathways in areas such as groundwater, climate change and low-carbon energy sources.

Social science in decision making

We engage with a wide range of stakeholders in government, businesses and communities to enable informed decision making. Our research in areas such as decision-making processes, behaviour, social economics and effective messaging underpins efforts to share our science in a way that is useful, usable and used. We aim to enable ethical and evidence-based conversations about Aotearoa New Zealand’s future.

Social science in Aotearoa

Our social science research aims to include all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s voices in our work. Our social scientists work closely with our Māori engagement team to ensure that te ao Māori perspectives, mātauranga Māori, and Te Tiriti obligations are adequately integrated and acknowledged throughout our science. Social science methods can help us better understand ways to embed and improve Māori engagement in our research through partnership with the Vision Mātauranga theme. We also have a growing body of work in Pacific research methodologies, issues and voices.

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