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The Christine Merrell Annual Methods Lecture 2024

DRMC's annual methods lecture, in honour and memory of Professor Christine Merrell, who was a Professor of Education and Deputy Executive Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health, will be taking place on:

Wednesday 15th May 2024 at 5pm

The Lecture is titled A crucial aspect of the polycrisis  facing humanity – the crisis in the methods of science we can deploy to confront it' by Professor Dave Byrne, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology, Durham University and Fellow of the Durham Research Methods Centre. 

The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session.

This is a face-to-face lecture and tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

There will be a drinks reception after the lecture at Hotel Indigo, Durham at 6.30pm. You are welcome to attend.

Click Here to register for this event


Lecture Abstract

A crucial aspect of the polycrisis facing humanity – the crisis in the methods of science we can deploy to confront it.

Humanity as part of the global socio-ecological system, which connects the social and the natural worlds, is facing a crisis in that system. Crisis is a state of a system which cannot continue in its current form but must either revert to a previous form – the simple meaning of resilience as bouncing back,or be transformed into a new form. This is a polycrisis which means that it comprises multiple interwoven components. In our forthcoming book: Researching Complex Crises: Complexity informed research for social transformation Gill Callaghan, Emma Uprichard and I examine these components with a focus on the methods of social research appropriate for confronting them. In our process of collective writing we came to recognize that one crucial aspect of the polycrisis is a crisis in research methods as a frame for understanding. This crisis reflects the endurance of reductionist positivism in both social and ecological research programmes; the continued emphasis after Popper and Lakatos on falsification of hypotheses as the object of science; the dominance of analytical as opposed to continental philosophy in the philosophy of social and ecological science; and above all else a complete failure to engage with how in the era not just of the Anthropocene but of the Capitalocene the relationship between science and politics cannot be one of objective detachment but rather requires a mutual engagement in a cyclical mode of action research towards desired an equitable and sustainable future system state.  We need to turn to a melding of complex realism, network thinking after Whitehead, and case based action research to achieve a desired future.

Biography of Speaker

Speaker Biography
Head & shoulder shot of Dave Byrne

David Byrne is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Durham University. His career has been at the interface of Sociology and Social Policy with the emphasis on action research as a method and inequality as a focus.  Books include Social Exclusion (2005), Applying Social Science (2011),  Complexity Theory – the state of the art (2013) (with Callaghan – second edition 2023), and works on Paying for the Welfare State in the 21st Century (with Ruane 2017), Inequality in a Context of Climate Crisis after COVID (2021) and Class after Industry (2019). All his work is defined by a complexity realist methodology. A lot of recent work has been around evaluation including involvement in CECAN and K4U Knowledge for Use. Together with Callaghan and Uprichard  he has just completed a book on Researching Complex Crises: Complexity informed research for social transformation for Policy Press and is now engaging with the development of scenarios as part of an action research programme.