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Arne Haselbach (1992)

Towards an International Social Science Strategy
Some remarks concerning the establishment of
intergovernmental social science research programmes *

Introduction

BACKGROUND

Unesco's international social science policy was mainly conceived during the period of its foundation and during a few years thereafter. This policy proved successful over some twenty years and brought rich results - as one can see if one looks at the publications of those days in their historical context and at the institutions that were created in various parts of the world.

Parallel to important numerical growth in the social sciences Unesco's leadership got weak, the efforts lost in importance, and its direct contributions became more and more dispersed making a very limited contribution.

Over the last few years concern with this situation and support for more important efforts in the social sciences has constantly grown in Unesco. The latest proof of this was the resolution adopted at the last General Conference asking for a feasibility study on the establishment of an intergovernmental social science programme.

THE CHALLENGE

This is not the time for business as usual, not the time for amalgamating a few bits and pieces taken from here and there and for calling that an international social science programme.

It seems that this is the first time after approximately forty years that there is a chance to rethink Unesco's role in the social sciences and to act accordingly.

It is the time for designing a new international social science policy.

THE NEED

That there is a need to design a new overall strategy is evident, especially if one considers

  • the changes that have taken place in the world since Unesco's foundation and the reappearance of threats which we believed we had overcome
  • the important growth of social science capacities (the number of chairs and institutes, of graduates, of studies undertaken, of publications, have all increased manyfold)
  • the developments in research on human perception and cognition, on the role and functioning of language as well as in the wide fields of sociology and psychology of knowledge and epistemology (which force us - if we want to be taken seriously - to take a new look at what the social sciences are and can do).

THE EFFORT HAS ALREADY STARTED

This is not utopianism.

The ISSC has already started. The HDGEC is well under way, a programme on poverty is in the making.

The structure of actors will greatly improve with the reunification within ISSC.

There is the probability that an intergovernmental social science programme may be adopted and carried out, if its design proves plausible and acceptable.

There is the continuing possibility of assisting countries where the social sciences are not yet strong enough within the framework of the regular programme of Unesco.

And there are some, albeit rather limited, additional possibilities for introducing one or the other important component of such a strategy in the regular programme of Unesco over the coming biennia.

THE PILLARS OF A STRATEGY

Any effort to develop and implement an international social science policy by successive operations has to take the following into account:

1. the conditions under which the social sciences have to and can produce well founded knowledge

2. the needs of social actors (from the individual to the state) for more, well founded, and relevant knowledge

3. the (multitude of) actors in the international field of the social sciences as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses including (those of) Unesco.

 

1. CONDITIONS OF THE PRODUCTION OF SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE
- Some Basic Issues -

In the following few points I am pointing to a few aspects of the conditions of production of social science knowledge the consequences of which have to be taken into account if a major effort to develop well founded social science knowledge is to prove successful.

Clearly, it can only be a sketchy approximation.

/Systematic work on these issues should also be undertaken stimulated by programme actions in the regular programme of Unesco over a number of years./

If one wants to learn everything one can from other major international scientific programmes for the design of an intergovernmental social science research programme it is important not only

  • to look at their structures, modes of operation, experiences etc.,

but also at

  • what differentiates the conditions of the production of knowledge of the sciences at work in those programmes and the conditions under which the social sciences operate.

It seems highly probable that taking these differences into account will necessitate certain adaptations.

1.1. SOCIAL SCIENCES STUDY HISTORICAL PHENOMENA

The material field about which the social sciences are trying to establish well founded knowledge are human beings, their actions and interactions and the resulting (partly engrained) processes.

All human beings as well as the societies and cultures they live in, have their (specific) histories.

These histories have shaped the societal settings and (have) influence(d) past, present and future behaviour of individuals, groups and institutions.

Thus, all events/phenomena that the social sciences study are historical phenomena.

This has a number of important consequences:

1.1.1. COMPLEXITY

The phenomena/events being studied are - ontologically - not separable from their past, present and future (expected and/or partly preconfigurated) contexts.

The resulting complexity is inherent to the field under investigation.

It follows that a single point of view, a single observer, a single focus, cannot be taken to adequately describe or interpret a social phenomenon.

1.1.2. >FAMILY RESSEMBLANCES< RATHER THAN >ISOMORPHISM<

Phenomena which we label with the same word do not necessarily share the same characteristics, i.e. there is no one-to-one correspondence between the elements of phenomena thus labelled and therefore the relationships between their elements are not the same.

It follows that good and detailed descriptions are essential both for theory building and for policy relevance of findings.

1.1.3. SPECIFICITY

The phenomena being studied are not the same the world over.

It follows, first, that phenomena being studied have - in the first instance - to be approached as specific. This is not a voluntaristic choice nor a relativist approach, but the only scientifically acceptable point of entry given the characteristics of the objects under investigation.

It follows, secondly, that what is relevant (and therefore what data are being sought) has to be decided in relation to the situation studied, to a preliminary theory of the specific situation, and not in relation to an intended comparison with other situations.

It follows, thirdly, that juxtaposition and the various ways to deal with the juxtaposed descriptions or data sets (such as comparison of structure or of individualized data concerning a range of characteristics) must be a later step.

It follows, fourthly, that the development of internationally standardized sets of data is neither a panacea nor a priori a scientifi cally acceptable regulative idea for all purposes. The mere existence of an internationally comparable set of data does not by itself lead to better theory, let alone to policy relevant knowledge. Social scientists should press for the development of such sets only concerning fields of phenomena/processes where it has been proven (or made very plausible) that they would actually serve those purposes.

1.2. CONDITIONS OF SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION

The conditions of observation are extremely limited and very unfavourable in relation to those of the natural sciences.

1.2.1. LIMITING OF COMPLEXITY IMPOSSIBLE

Social scientists do not have the possibility to limit the complexity of the phenomenon under investigation in relation to questions being asked.

In those cases where experimental designs can be (from an ethical point of view) and are used the phenomenon under observation changes (some of) its characteristics due to the artificial situation of the experimental design. Thus, while important things can be learned in this fashion they can at the same time be misleading if taken to represent the real life phenomena (which often happens).

1.2.2. REPETITION OF PHENOMENA IMPOSSIBLE

Social scientists do not have the possibility to repeat phenomena until those aspects which are considered decisive have been 'well' observed.

1.2.3. DATA PRODUCED BY THE OBSERVED

In some of the social science disciplines eliciting data from the observed is a necessary way of arriving at data. In these cases the data are produced by the observed and not by the observers.

1.2.4. RECONSTRUCTION OF DATA RATHER THAN OBSERVATION

Reconstruction is widely used as a procedure in the sciences. But, whereas reconstruction is usually a procedure for interpretation of data collected via observation, in the social sciences it is an important part of the description/the data themselves that are reconstructed. It follows that the probability of a skewed description is higher. This probability is further increased when internationally standardized instruments of elicitation of data are employed.

1.3. POTENTIALS AND NON-ADDITIVE FORCES

The material field of the social sciences are human beings, their actions and interactions and the resulting (partly engrained) processes.

Human action implies decision-making and choosing the next move (among a wide, albeit limited, variety of possible ways to procede).

This in turn implies that within the material field we have to reckon with potentials. Only some of these potentials are realized via actions.

It follows that a large part of the forces we are dealing with in the social sciences are forces which are alternative and/or (mutually) substitutive, forces that do not have continuous effects and that are, as a consequence, not additive i.e. they do not add up to resultant vectors.

It also follows that if we are to produce policy relevant knowledge it is not enough to study actual actions but we also have to study potentials.

1.4. SOCIAL SCIENTISTS ARE SOCIALLY AND CULTURALLY SITUATED HUMAN BEINGS

Social scientists are human beings born into a given society and culture in which they gain their experiences especially of how others act and talk about the world, in which they receive/develop sets of values and in which they participate in a variety of social roles (both in parallel and over time).

All of this influences their thinking.

And most of these acquired/developed notions, experiences and values relate to events or phenomena which are part and parcel of the material field studied by the social sciences.

This has consequences for the social sciences.

1.4.1. VALUES AND POLITICAL ORIENTATIONS

Given that these dimensions of individuality relate to the same material field as that which is studied - which is not the case in the natural sciences - it follows that values, valuations, and political orientations of social scientists are part and parcel of the social sciences. They constitute an independent dimension which cannot be reduced to the scientific dimension nor can they be abstracted from.

1.4.2. OVERLAP OF EVERYDAY SOCIAL THINKING AND SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE

Scientific knowledge is only a small part of total human knowledge. As far as the material field of the social sciences is concerned the volume of everyday non-scientific knowledge by far exceeds the volume of scientific knowledge.

Everyday social knowledge is encoded in everyday language.

Everyday language is - and has to be - used to elicit data and to describe social phenomena.

What follows is an essential impossibility to clearly separate the two types and stocks of knowledge.

1.4.3. CULTURE-BASED MODES OF THINKING AND MENTAL CONSTRUCTS

Notions and mental constructs, whether labelled or unlabelled, and their relationships vary from culture to culture.

To give a simple example: Primary experiences are grouped differently in different cultures, the relationships among the resulting notions /and among the words with which they are labelled/ are necessarily different.

/The differences among culture based modes of thinking are more complex but even more important for the social sciences. They cannot be dealt with here, but they have to be considered in this context. Much further work is needed to describe them and to clarify their implications for the development of a universal social science knowledge./

Whatever is included in the treasure of notions and mental constructs of a culture is (more) likely to receive attention, other aspects are likely to be neglected since they are difficult to focus on.

A special set of measures is needed both to bring the special strength of culture based modes of thinking and related mental constructs to full fruition for the international development of the social sciences and to overcome culturally based »aspect blindness« and its effects on the social sciences. /Such a set of measures includes, but goes far beyond, support to institution-building and training in the social sciences in countries where the latter are still weak./

2. POLICY AND POLICY RELEVANCE

In the following I shall try to sketch - in a nutshell - what policy relevance of the social sciences is all about.

2.1. POLICY IS CONSCIOUS TRANSITION-MAKING

Policy is about conscious transformation of a social situation (or trend), about transition from one situation to another, about transition from a less desired to a more desired state.

Policy is conscious transition making.

2.2. >POLICY< FROM A 'REALISTIC' POINT OF VIEW

In the - oversimplified - 'realistic' view transition making has three main explicit aspects:

1. A situation to be changed,

2. the means or instruments to effect the change, and

3. the situtation one wants to create.

(The actors, the fourth dimension, remain mosty implicit, it being (sometimes wrongly) assumed that the relevant actor can only be government.)

2.3. >POLICY< FROM A KNOWLEDGE POINT OF VIEW

By translating this into knowledge terms we come much closer to the real situation /since human beings (re-)act - also in terms of policy - to what they (think they) know/.

In that view one has - again oversimplified -

1. a certain description of the situation as it is known/assumed to exist

2. descriptions of means and instruments and assumptions about which aspects of the situation they would affect if employed and how, as well as assumptions about which kind of processes would make their use and effects possible

3. a multi-aspect and multi-dimensional goal structure, among which
- descriptions of one or more aspects which are considered intolerable (should not be allowed to continue)
- (possibly vague) descriptions of one or more aspects of the situation one wants to reach

with priorities along both dimensions.

2.4. POLICY RELEVANCE AND DESCRIPTION

The choice of means and instruments to be employed in a policy and the processes considered necessary to be brought about are based

  • on the description of the situation prevalent in the circles of the policy-makers, the way it is broken down into components and into processes and
  • on the aspects they want to change and how.

The choice of means and instruments one thinks of using and the processes one considers necessary as well as their sequencing also depend

  • on the description of what effects the employment of certain instruments, of certain institutional settings and rules have had in other situations both as regards the achievement sought and the possible appearance/creation of hindrances or counterforces.

It is, thus, a better description of the phenomena under consideration including a better and possibly different conceptualization of its interlocked and interacting component parts and processes which is at the heart of policy relevance of social science research.

(The opposition between description and conceptualization which is often introduced is based on a misunderstanding of the actual functioning of human language as term(inologie)s used for concepts behave in much the same way as other words in everyday language.)

2.5. >POLICY RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE< - NOT >POLICY-ORIENTED RESEARCH<

As much as I can see the debate is carried on in terms of »policy-oriented research«. This is very unfortunate, because it leads to the wrong debates and because it is likely to lead to a wrong overall orientation, to an unsuited overall programme design and to research designs which will not deliver policy relevant knowledge.

The policy orientation of a research programme is not established by choosing or designing policy-oriented research.

A research programme is evaluated on the basis of its results.

Whether it was policy oriented will therefore be judged by whether it has produced policy relevant knowledge.

Thus, what an international social science programme ought to aim at is the creation of »policy relevant knowledge«.

The kind of research needed to establish policy relevant knowledge will have to be of various types - certainly not only »policy oriented research«.

2.6. SHOULD SOCIAL SCIENTISTS REALLY SUBSTITUTE THEMSELVES FOR GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER SOCIAL ACTORS ?

The driving overall objective of the ISSP is defined as

"to stimulate the potential of the social sciences to work toward finding sustainable solutions to pressing social problems .."

"supporting policy-relevance and increased problem solving capacity of social science research in certain priority areas" 1

This begs a number of questions:

  • Is the conception of the role of the social sciences really that they should substitute themselves for decision-makers in that they find the solutions to social problems?
  • Are decisions as to what constitutes a (social or societal) problem and especially what can be considered a solution really to be taken by social scientists rather than by the social actors involved: Governments, political parties, interest groups and, of course, the individuals living in the respective situation?

As social scientists we know that the position of governments vis-Ö-vis the social sciences is ambivalent. On the one hand they want help in finding solutions, on the other they do not want any interference whatsoever.

In drawing up their own programmes social scientists should not create expectations which - given the nature of their work - their results cannot live up to.

The role of the social sciences is not to find solutions nor to solve problems. It is to establish well founded knowledge.

Therefore, the driving overall objective of the envisaged major social science programme can only be to establish well founded, policy relevant knowledge.

2.7. POLICY RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE ONLY FOR THE SITUATIONS ACTUALLY STUDIED?

The idea of finding solutions has another drawback.

Given the nature of the material field of the social sciences, solutions could only be proposed - with the seriousness necessary - for the cases actually studied.

A major international scientific programme should aim at more than providing knowledge for the design of appropriate solutions in the situations actually studied since

  • the number of such studies will necessarily remain limited
  • the policy related insights should be of potential use for many countries, not just the few where studies are being undertaken.

2.8. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE USED IN POLICY DESIGN ?

There are countless debates on the application of social science knowledge. Again a debate which is largely besides the point!

The process of policy design is one of »learning from« knowledge developed in other situations not one of »application of« such knowledge. (This holds for both the use of expert advice by policy makers and the way consulting firms develop their advice.)

2.9. AS TO >POLICY RELEVANCE< THE FOLLOWING DECISIONS NEED TO BE TAKEN:

Should the design of an ISSP aim at

  • policy-oriented research or at policy relevant knowledge
  • policy relevance (including suggested solutions) only for the situations actually studied or for policies concerning the same field of human endeavour also in other countries than the ones actually studied.

Decisions on these issues must be taken - whether one likes the outcome or not - since the design of the programme must be tailored accordingly.

If they are not taken, the potential of the new modality cannot be fully brought to fruition.

3. HOW CAN WE ARRIVE AT WELL FOUNDED AND POLICY RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE BEYOND CASES ACTUALLY STUDIED

This question has to be approached with the conditions of the production of social science knowledge in mind some of which have been sketched in the first part of this paper.

The fact that the phenomena/events in the material field of the social sciences are complex, specific and not isomorph, the specific ways of gathering and reconstructing data in combination with the cultural and societal socialisation of every social scientist (and the overlapping of all effects of socialisation with the field of research) as well as the existence of non-additive forces does not allow us to avoid confronting this question squarely.

/Since this is not the place to argue the case in epistemological terms I will concentrate on operational aspects which should find their reflection in the design of such international social science programmes./

Among the many consequences of these specificities of the material field of the social sciences and of their conditions of knowledge production is that they

  • do not automatically bring about a world-wide state of these sciences as is - by and large - the case in the natural sciences.
  • do not automatically bring about mutual fertilization and synthesis.

CONCERTED - NOT ONLY PARALLEL - RESEARCH

There is a lot of social science research going on in various places at any given moment. Adding some dozen projects to that bulk is not what a major scientific programme is about.

An international research programme must consist of concerted research, research that that is interacting, interlocking, goes on in parallel or is sequenced so that later starters can build on the results of earlier efforts.

Processes that produce cross-fertilization and synthesis have to be organized in concert.

And they have to be organized in relation to a limited field of phenomena.

CONNECTIVITY

>Connectivity< is a term taken from research on the human brain and on human cognition. In shorthand: A variety of inputs are received from the environment at the same time at many points of entry. Such inputs are being passed on to more than one receiver, are processed at the same time in various centers widely distributed on the basis of a combination of parallel, convergent and divergent connections. A center receives inputs from many other centers, integrates these into a single pattern and passes that pattern on to many other centers.

By installing networks and a regular exchange of information and of interim results one creates a situation which is in some respects similar to what happens in the human brain when one is learning new things. That is, when something new is learned the network of relations among existing and changing components of knowledge changes and partially new patterns are established which allow new insights.

CROSS-FERTILIZATION

Connectivity is likely to lead to cross-fertilization.

Thinking about social phenomena is influenced by the mental associations available. If new associations become available by taking into consideration what others have come up with in their projects (e.g. description of coexistence of components of phenomena, of interlinkages or interactions developed in other studies) thinking will be stimulated and will possibly change, a dynamic is being created.

In such a process cross-fertilization is made to happen at all or at a much faster pace than would otherwise be the case.

LIMITING THE FIELD UNDER INVESTIGATION

Connectivity will in any case stimulate thinking and produce cross-fertilization. But it will remain dispersed and slow unless the field of study will be delimited.

If connectivity is instituted among people working on similar or related phenomena the cross-fertilization produced is likely to become much more dynamic.

It is therefore suggested to focus the research planned on phenomena which, due to their family ressemblances, can be taken to constitute a field of research.

Put even more pointedly: A circumscription of a programme which does not imply a limitation of the phenomena/events/processes being studied is inherently unsuited as focus of a major scientific programme and should be excluded.

A CRITICAL MASS OF RESEARCH ON PHENOMENA IN THAT FIELD

The effects of connectivity will be felt even more if the number of studies undertaken or stimulated in a limited field is relatively large.

In order to make that possible, one should not take up more than one field at a time.

/The process to get such an operation going takes approx. 2-4 years. Towards the end of that period a second field might be taken up in addition, and so forth in that rhythm./

DURATION

The basic reasoning that leads to the demand for a critical mass of research also leads to a demand for a plausible duration of the concentration on the chosen field of phenomena. The ten years used in other programmes appear plausible, but may need reconsideration in the light of the field chosen.

/Should the ISSP become an umbrella programme with sequenced start of additional topics the matter will become complicated. Maybe one should prepare for crossing that river when that time approaches./

SYNERGY

Major international scientific programmes that produce a critical mass of research on a delimited field of study over a substantial period of time and that are consciously organized to create connectivity and cross-fertilization in social science research bring about an important measure of synergy and will produce the policy relevant knowledge aimed at.

ONOMATIC GLOSSARIES

Research results can take different forms.

Given the specificity of social situations the battle for validity should not be carried out as a battle about which concepts are applicable everywhere.

Rather it should take the form of a search for the best and valid descriptions of the /components of/ phenomena and of processes in individual situations.

What the social sciences need is not the reduction of the number of concepts but a greater variety of descriptively adequate concepts.

/It may be that the approaches sofar followed in establishing the onomatic glossaries will have to be adapted or additional subapproaches added to come to grips with the morphological aspects of phenomena and their immense variety./

Such glossaries should be established on every chosen field of study as an on-going operation in the course of the programme.

There are specific phases in each project in which most of the inputs to the onomatic glossaries will surface.

1. The first is the phase of project design. A large part of the cognitive dissonances appearing in that phase stems from /culture or experience based/ differences in notions and concepts. These cognitive differences should be made explicit and systematically collected, prior to entering the power game about which of these concepts will prevail in the research design to be adopted for the project.

2. The other phases which will bring additions are the analytical and interpretative phases once descriptions and data have been collected and organized.

OUTPUT

  • publication of case studies will make the knowledge developed in relation to the individual cases available,
  • publication of the proposed glossaries will give an overview of the advances reached in social science knowledge on the full field chosen as focus of an ISSP
  • major theoretical works will integrate and generalize, but are no substitute for case studies and onomatic glossaries.

4. BUILDING ON UNESCO'S STRENGTHS, TAKING ITS WEAKNESSES INTO ACCOUNT

Unesco's strengths are mentioned /for an additional one see below/ in the papers and taken into consideration in further reasoning.

However, what is missing in the analysis are Unesco's weaknesses. It comes without surprise that they are also not taken into consideration in the design.

Unesco's main weaknesses that are relevant here are:

1. Unesco language often >formulates away< necessary distinctions and leads sometimes to blurred decisions

2. Unesco has hardly any money

3. Unesco has a very small professional staff in the social sciences.

THE NEED OF A CLEAR DISTINCTION BETWEEN

  • what is to be decided at the intergovernmental political level and
  • what is to be decided at the international scientific level

Efforts to establish well founded scientific knowledge have to follow specific sets of rules and related procedures. Policy making

Thus, the decision about the policy or problem area on which a major social science effort in the form of an ISSP should be concentrated in order to develop new policy relevant knowledge is a decision at the (intergovernmental) political level of decision-making.

The decision on the whole field of how this knowledge is to be developed, i.e. the design of research programmes and projects, sequencing, methodologies, etc. is a matter of decision-making at the scientific level of decision-making.

MOBILIZATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE COMMUNITY

The research needed to establish the knowledge sought will have to be carried out by social scientists. Neither Unesco, nor the governments themselves will do that.

The main element of the strategy of an ISSP is, therefore, the creation of interest among social scientists the world over. Their interest is the key.

It is they who have to do the preparatory work, to elaborate project proposals, to organize for mobilizing national support, to convince institutions to put such research on their work programmes, they have to change (or at least adapt) their planned career and life-strategies for a substantially long period.

If there is wide interest in the scientific community, funding also becomes much easier.

COOPERATION WITH NATIONAL, SUBREGIONAL, REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE NETWORKS AND INSTITUTIONS

Cooperation with the scientific networks is also essential.

If the networks decide to cooperate this helps in many ways, inter alia:

  • the large know-how assembled in these networks becomes available
  • the channels of communication can be used in the mobilization phase
  • they can play an important part in organizing connectivity and cross-fertilization.

This presupposes that the networks and institutions are considered as partners in a common undertaking, which in turn implies that the processes of cooperation have to be organised accordingly.

ISSPs AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT

ISSPs should not be overloaded with non directly related matters.

Support for general infrastructure development, institution-building, or capacity enhancing activities for the social sciences or specific disciplines in countries where the social sciences are still relatively weak, should be continued as a major activity in the regular programme of Unesco, but should not be added to an ISSP. (The financial amounts involved would be such that the research part of the ISSP would not - with the remaining amounts of money - be able to deliver what it is being set up for: the production of well founded knowledge on the chosen field.)

The only activities of an institution-building or capacity-enhancing nature that might be included in an ISSP must be directly related to the delimited field of research chosen for the programme.

In this way, problem-oriented networks - preferably within already existing organisational structures - could be supported, as could be training for - already graduated - social scientists for research activities in the chosen field. 2 (The amounts involved would still be substantial, so that the question of setting priorities may well arise.)

ISSP - PROCEDURES OF A RESEARCH FUND ? - WITHOUT MONEY

It was astonishing to see that some of the procedures outlined in the papers on an ISSP bear rather close ressemblance to the procedures of national research funding institutions.

The strengths and weaknesses of such funds are different from those of Unesco. They work under quite different conditions, which include, inter alia, that

  • they have money (often more than Unescos social science budget)
  • they have to cater to the totality of the social science scene in their respective country
  • even when they have priority programmes - as is often the case - substantial amounts are usually set aside for supporting interesting and innovative research on other topics.

Unesco operates under quite different conditions and I cannot see any plausible reason why an ISSP should operate as a »research fund without money«.

Should the choice of such procedures be implicitly based on the idea that money to support the operations of ISSP will have to be transferred to Unesco than a strong cautionary note is in place:

Such a rule would reduce the amounts of money available for ISSP operations by between fifty and ninety percent.

TOWARDS UNIVERSALITY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE

One of the most important strength of Unesco has been missed in the papers on ISSP.

It consists in the fact that Unesco encompasses (almost) all cultures of this world and has, therefore, access to the wealth of culture based modes of thinking and mental constructs.

How could this strength, which probably constitutes the most important structural comparative advantage of Unesco, be capitalized? Some first ideas:

1. As concerns culture based mental constructs the approach developed in the INTERCOCTA glossaries is a good first approximation of a methodology that can be used for their collection without loosing their specificity.

2. In order to bring the strength of different cultural modes of thinking to bear and in order to reduce the probability of aspect blindness, social scientist from other cultures should participate (at least) in (the bigger) projects. 3 (Such participation can probably be limited to certain phases of the research process - thus reducing the costs involved - without loosing the value added stemming from their participation.)

© Arne Haselbach 1992

 

Notes

* Arne Haselbach, "Towards an International Social Science Strategy - Some Remarks concerning the Establishment of Intergovernmental Social Science Research Programmes", Invited contribution, Preparatory process for a Major International Social Science Research Programm to be started by UNESCO, July 1992

1 Quote from SHS/010/05115/2: "2. OBJECTIVES OF THE ISSP"

2 An interesting example of training activities organized in that fashion was the training organized in the context of the UNU project on "Household, gender and age".

3 In this way the mistake that was made in the UNU project on "Technology transfer, transformation and development: The Japanese experience" could be prevented.