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University Chopping Blocks Climate Change, Social Sciences

  • September 12, 2021 at 6:17 am
University Chopping Blocks Climate Change, Social Sciences

What are Australia’s three greatest challenges in the next five to ten years. How will social science help to solve these problems? These questions were asked by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in a discussion paper that was published earlier in the year. This review was prompted by cuts in social science disciplines across the country. Teaching takes precedence over research.

One Group of Eight university proposes to reduce the number of sociology and anthropology staff from nine to 1. The social sciences will see positions reclassified from research and teaching to teaching-only.

Research funding is also shifting to applied research. Federal government is looking for research that engages more with industry and can demonstrate its contribution to national interests.

Other long-term trends are also threatening. This confluence of funding cuts and revenue loss from international fee-paying students is a result of the combination of these two factors. In the 1980s successive federal governments have eroded the value of social sciences in comparison to science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

This policy changes the purpose of Australian universities. It now aims to produce job-ready graduate, and places more emphasis on engagement with industry. Restructuring funding is seen as an investment in science. Social science students have seen their fees rise.

Social Science Expertise

This is all happening during a period of pandemics when the social sciences are more important than ever. It is vital that science and social sciences work together in order to meet the challenges we face.

To name just a few, the pandemic highlighted issues like attitudes and behaviour change, fake information and the politics in science, vulnerability of those in care, roles, responsibilities and gender disparities in the pandemic’s effects, as well as the role and responsibilities of government and citizens. Understanding the cultural and social diversity that underpins people’s beliefs and values, and how they interact in a global emergency is key to addressing these issues. Social scientists are responsible for this.

Gender analyses of COVID-19’s impacts have shown, for example:

  • Women are 22% more likely than men to lose their job.
  • 20 million girls in the world will never go back to school.
  • A paltry 23% target women’s economic security in emergency aid.

Because of systemic gender inequalities, these impacts will likely be lasting. To remedy these impacts, we must understand the context of social and cultural structures.

Social science research is what reveals the extent to which the pandemic has exacerbated the precarity of women and the inequality they face. Cultural norms around the globe limit women’s mobility and independence, and place them in unpaid care work. The hardest hit sectors, such as education, social care and care, are the most concentrated concentration of women.

The social sciences provide students with the tools to address complex problems in 21st-century society beyond the pandemic. The social sciences offer the ability to: Understanding the nature of individuals, communities, and cultures (the human condition).

Gain A Wide Comparative View

You will be able to see how the crises in this century have an impact on how you live. There are many fields of study, including sociology, anthropology and gender and race, Indigenous studies and political science. The sciences are directly applicable to many pressing issues. These include pandemics and vaccine hesitancy, climate change, race and gender relations; inequality and poverty, mass migration and refugees; and authoritarianism.

News events give us an insight into complex social phenomena. This requires science analysis. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and March 4 Justice are just a few examples. The Federal Court victory for a group comprising teenagers, who means that the environment minister is responsible for protecting children from the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions.

Sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists have the evidence to help us apply solutions to global issues in local settings. We have the science to stop the spread of COVID-19, and we can create vaccines. How can we make the necessary social and behavioral changes to sanitation, vaccine uptake and mask-wearing? How do we turn science into policy?

Another example is that it’s one thing understanding climate science but how can we ensure people are aware of what they can do in their daily lives to make it better? Social scientists provide insight into the reasons why certain changes occur or not through expert analysis and translation.

Are You Job-Ready?

Social scientists are in high demand and have never been more so. Social scientists are found in the public and private sectors. They work in community and international development as well as refugee and humanitarian agencies. Social science graduates are valued by employers for their communication skills, analytical skills, cultural awareness, and effective communication. Arts, social sciences, and humanities graduates are much more employable than scientists.