Shaking Up the Social Sciences

in Significant Bits
July 21st, 2013

A blog in the New York Times argues that the advent of new research methodologies and the pursuit of new opportunities for exciting interdisciplinary collaboration suggest that social science disciplines are due for an overhaul that resembles the face-lift of many natural science disciplines, which were transformed at least in part by computing.   

Social sciences have stagnated. They offer essentially the same set of academic departments and disciplines that they have for nearly 100 years: sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology and political science. This is not only boring but also counterproductive, constraining engagement with the scientific cutting edge and stifling the creation of new and useful knowledge. Such inertia reflects an unnecessary insecurity and conservatism, and helps explain why the social sciences don’t enjoy the same prestige as the natural sciences.

For the past century, people have looked to the physical and biological sciences to solve important problems. The social sciences offer equal promise for improving human welfare; our lives can be greatly improved through a deeper understanding of individual and collective behavior. But to realize this promise, the social sciences, like the natural sciences, need to match their institutional structures to today’s intellectual challenges.

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