Scott?s current research explores the participation of individuals in self-help and social movements. He is interested in questions such as: what differentiates the social background and civic engagement of people who participate in self-help and social movements? Under what circumstances and with what goals do people participate in such movements? How do people characterize their participation in self-help and social movements? What outcomes do people believe they accomplish through their participation? Why do some people engage in the individualized pursuit of change, while others engage in more collective forms of action? How do answers to such questions differ according to participants? social class, gender, and other pertinent variables? Through such questions, Scott is exploring one of the most important political and cultural trends in recent decades: mobilizing people through claims grounded in appeals to individual or collective change.
From 2011 through 2015, Scott?s research focused on exploring the experience of reading self-help books in the areas of health and well-being, careers and financial success, and interpersonal relationship. His research team interviewed 134 readers of self-help books, and made important contributions to understanding why, how, and with what outcomes men and women read such books.
From 2004 through 2011, Scott undertook research in the historical sociology of university-based adult education at five Canadian universities: McGill University, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Montreal, and University of Saskatchewan. This research linked the evolution of university continuing education to broader political-economic changes in Canadian society, and produced insightful case studies about the government of subjectivity.
Between 1994 and 2004, Scott?s research had a primarily applied focus. He led a five-year program of intervention and research to support healthcare reform in the province of Saskatchewan, developing capacity for health promotion work among individuals and organizations. He conducted research for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, exploring how distance education and capacity-building strategies could be productively applied to solving global challenges of food insecurity and rural poverty. He investigated the professional practice of adult and continuing education, publishing studies of needs assessment, program planning, and evaluation, and introducing continuing education practitioners to contemporary sociological concepts and theories.
Scott?s PhD dissertation (Carleton University, 1994) examined the relationships between subjectivity and power in processes of social transformation, through a historical and sociological study of adult education in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut. This work documented the colonization of the central Arctic by the Canadian state, and demonstrated how the construction of individualizing practices of governance was integral to such colonization.