Dr Sadia Shaukat
IT’S always been a cognitive dissonance for being a social scientist, raking with pain that is why social sciences have remained sidelined and forsaken disciplines not in Pakistan but all over the world. Wonders will never cease, when I observed and compared the infrastructure of the social sciences and the natural sciences. They are step motherly treated all over the world.
This was a jarring experience, so I tried to gauge this discriminatory treatment by comparing the infrastructure of the two sciences. Whenever I step into a natural sciences building it makes me wonder due to the exterior fabric, mechanical services, lighting and electrical efficiencies, hydraulics, waste and emissions, all of which have been carefully considered to hit key energy targets. Visitors to these buildings can view data in real time via the interactive displays, screens located on each level.
The societal misperception has taken toll on the research and development of social sciences re-search at the public sector universities. Meagre re-sources lead to limited facilities for these disciplines, while what the libraries have to offer is just outdated books and journals (copy paste, pl re write) . No interactive displays here! The natural sciences have a lion’s share in the board’s funding and focus for projects, research and other equipment (pl re-write ). Many social scientists believe their achievements are unrecognised, when compared with the work of those in the areas natural sciences technology.
In more general, holistic terms, we have tried to order our experiences of being human by classifying our thinking in manageable ‘bites’. Overall, the social sciences try to explain our social interactions, understanding and experiences, which include phi-losophy, religion, literature, music, art, psychology and other human sciences. Within this broad field, the natural sciences are subsumed, and have the role of easing our living in the natural world through its laws and technological applications. So the social sciences would be expected to help governments address important social and political challenges, for example the role of the madrassahs, but many academics in the field feel their research is ignored.
Several factors contribute to the undervaluing of the social sciences. The natural sciences have more practical value, being linked through their discoveries, applications for industry and commercial wealth. I have surveyed the views of some social scientists. They believe that the main problem is that while the government is ignoring or undervaluing the social sciences, it is still attempting to control what social scientists do. They also said that Higher Education Commission always allocated lions’ share in the finding for sciences since its inception, a dramatic increase of PhDs and Postdoctoral fel-lowships in the Science disciplines could possible due to the preference of Science disciplines (new addition) .
One of social scientist said “In my opinion because of the rise of capitalism, the subjects that have eco-nomic impact are valued more such as economics, business, marketing, management, organizational psychology, but, on the other hand, philosophy, literature, languages, are not valued because you cannot earn much with these subjects”. Since of the dominance of Capitalism, the values of the societies are also influenced by capitalistic values in monetary benefits. So, money making subjects have more social value that the subjects that have less power to earn.
Funding agencies claim to support research that has an impact on society for financial gains, but such agencies also assume that social sciences have a narrow scope of what constitutes useful and impactful work. Hence, natural sciences are always preferred over social sciences and humanities as the need of the hour. In this case, the role of social scientists as critical thinkers and rationalists is being ignored, which is another common view. On the ground too, the picture of social science at the higher education level is even more depressed. Promoting natural science and engineering subjects has been the prime focus of not only the government and policymakers but also the parents and the wider society.
There should be a win-win possibility if the government begins to encourage students to adopt social sciences at school level, and also provide incentives to scholars to do research in the social sci-ences. The social context of support for the natural sciences must be addressed. Areas such as primary medical care, a changing education system, a justice system, and business require technical applications in a planned, social environment.
One of the key programmes that have emerged to champion the social sciences has been the Campaign for Social Science, which is a Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) The Campaign attempts to inform public policy, build coalitions, and engage in measured advocacy for support of the social sciences. I guess with the passage of time, when humans will be bogged down by living under extreme stressful capitalistic life, they will need the social sciences more. They will need literature, music, art, psychology, religion and the other human sciences to understand more and to keep them in balance and sane!
—The writer is an Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Education, and Township Campus Lahore. [http://www.ue.edu.pk]