State of Social Sciences

Posted by sepoy on July 05, 2010 · 3 mins read

This is too important to ignore so y'all should go read UNESCO's World Social Science Report 2010. The whole thing.

Still a quote for the peanut gallery, from Venni V. Krishna and Usha Krishna, "Social sciences in South Asia", pp. 77-81.

There seems to be consensus among social scientists that, with a few exceptions, the quality of both teaching and research in social sciences is declining in South Asia. The accountability factor is virtually absent and peer evaluation systems are weak in publicly funded research institutions and universities. Social scientists and eminent scholars are seriously concerned, and via various forums, they have actively tried to draw policy-makers' and the academic community's attention to this neglect.

Compared with science and technology, the funding of social science research is marginal in the region as a whole. Within the region, India has the longest and strongest tradition of public funding for social science research. Nevertheless, even this has not been as high as desired in recent years. In the absence of adequate governmental support for social science research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and to a lesser extent India, foreign agencies are increasingly playing a crucial role in funding, but also in determining the content and direction of research. The donor-driven shift towards Mode 2 knowledge production is causing social scientists in the region considerable concern. This calls for a serious commitment to increased public funding to encourage independent, objective research that could contribute to a better understanding of socio-economic and political trends in the region.

The declining status of research, poor funding and poor career options have combined to produce brain drain roblems in the region. Economics is the most affected discipline, as some of the most talented Indian and Pakistani economists work in foreign countries. Serious policy attention is needed to arrest the brain drain and attract the best students to social sciences.

Knowledge production is very unevenly distributed in the region. There is a wide knowledge gap between India and the smaller countries. Unlike these countries, India, with its large pool of intellectual capital, its institutional structures and its government support for social sciences, has been able to produce a mass of empirical knowledge, which has contributed to a better understanding of its society and culture. To some extent this knowledge has also been used by policy-makers for developmental purposes and to create a more just and participatory society. In comparison, social science research in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is still trying to establish a professional footprint. The bulk of research relating to these countries' societal issues is undertaken by foreigners or by local scholars who have settled in the West. Thus, the nodal points from which knowledge is produced are located outside the countries, research is externally sponsored and the research agendas are imposed from abroad. This raises the issue of how far knowledge produced in this way can cater for local needs.


gaddeswarup | July 05, 2010

There is a post in "The law and Other Things" three years ago discussing an article by Rajiv Sethi: I think that even in physical sciences, there is a decine in number of outstanding scientists compared to the sixty years before independence. This is a topic worth outsourcing.

shama zaidi | July 07, 2010

have just come back after giving a talk for the history class of class 12 in my grand-daughter's school in bangalore. what surprised me most was that all those who had elected for history were girls, as history is not a "serious" subject for this science and information technology obsessed city.

Pkal | July 13, 2010 Sounds like Pakistanis find some "liberal" arts very pleasurable.