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How can social sciences and humanities be better integrated in research on ‘Societal Challenges’?


In an earlier post, Thomas Koenig wrote about the upcoming Lithuanian EU Presidency conference ‘Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities’, which reacts to the so-called ‘integrative approach’ the European Commission proposed in the preparation of the ‘Horizon 2020’ research funding programme; more precisely the third pillar known as the ‘societal challenges’. Seven such challenges have been predefined by Commission (in collaboration with European Parliament and European Council).

He now asks: What does integration of social sciences and humanities actually mean? Can “SSH” really contribute to “societal challenges”? And what is required to make this possible?

He is curious to hear your opinion: please share in the comments section.


1 Comment

  1. I think the answer to that question requires, at least, a back to basics’ attitude in the scientific community and, therefore, in society in general. Here I just mention a few points that I believe should be taken into consideration:

    1. Engaged skills: We have not yet totally focused on the types of skills that are likely to ensure a work place in the knowledge society. Rather we are still quite engaged in the ancient skills that supposedly used to guarantee a place in the old industrial society based on the calculation of the intellectual coefficient of the candidates. The time has come to analyze new skills, such as the inventive digital ability or the emotional learning improvement.
    2. Don’t follow others’ models: the scientific community and scientific paradigms mirror many aspects of our societies. For instance, European Union is able to produce model economies side by side with lost cases; the same happens when western societies forget that the twist in the emergent markets will bring back the spotlight into the West, especially into the American technologies and German productions. So this is actually a very good timing to rethink the role of disciplines, especially the social sciences. But this reflection also encompasses the natural and experimental sciences as it also needs to be done in regard to the use of scientific and technological research. The special role of social sciences could be to promote a healthy skepticism with regard to the comprehensive notions about what leads to the growth of economies and individuals. This includes the recently popularized (and erroneous) concept according to which a strong growth has everything to do with strong institutions, especially the open and inclusive institutions of democratic systems that create conditions for innovation. Actually, this just leads to a vicious cycle of low intellectual and social growth, aggravated by deletions of important knowledges.
    3. Lessons to learn: In countries like Spain and Spanish America, the war against literature achieved a true castration, both intellectual and moral, from which we (not merely the Spanish world) only just began to recover at the end of the 19th century and, in many cases, several decades later. Like Juan Vásquez said, a world without novels is a stagnant world with a stagnating self-vision, with a stagnating identity. So, let’s see if now, two centuries later we can start getting something clear.
    4. Pay more attention to authority on the epistemic domain. Shall we simply reject authority in the epistemic domain – and if it is so there is a lot to be done to explain why? Or shall we not reject it, but, in this case, we need to know why we should pay attention to it?

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