How does the general public perceive the relationship between science and social work, and what are their perceptions of the extent to which science could address social work’s Grand Challenges? Read more about the American public’s confidence in the scientific nature of social work research in the recent study, “The Science of Social Work: Public Perceptions,” by Craig W. LeCroy, PhD, MSW, and Tamar Kaplan, LCSW (Arizona State University, GCSW Premier Sponsor), published in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.
Objective: Although social work has a long history of emphasizing its scientific foundations, the discipline has been unclear about how the public evaluates social work’s scientific standing. This study examines how the general public perceives the relationship between science and social work, their perceptions of how social science may be used to resolve social problems, the extent to which science could address social work’s grand challenges, and the public’s confidence in social work research. Method: We used a crowdsourcing platform to gather data from a diverse sample of the U.S. population (N=530). Respondents were administered a survey and asked about their perceptions of science and social work. Results: Although only a slim majority of respondents agreed that social work is a science, a solid majority (over 80%) believed science can be used to solve social problems. Large differences emerged in how respondents rated the capacity of science to address social work’s grand challenges. Conclusions: Many Americans do not recognize the science behind social work. The discipline should more actively promote its scientific status to the public.