This article, based on literature review and interviews with key informants in 2021–22, reflects on the degree to which social science and social science specialists were involved in the Thai government’s handling of the multidimensional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article juxtaposes the marginal role of social scientists in official structures with their multiple engagements outside of such structures. The findings show that pandemic-specific social research agenda of social scientists were generally technocratic in nature, being geared to the perceived needs of policymakers, even if formal mechanisms to feed inputs into the policymaking process were restricted. Using public debates and the media, a smaller group of social scientists were able to make an impact by highlighting neglected aspects of the pandemic, advocating for the rights of the underserved and challenging policy decisions.