Over the past twenty years social sciences have become global. They are taught almost everywhere. Their research results are now widely disseminated. Social science expertise is in high demand by policy-makers, media and the public, and social science concepts and theories influence public opinion and debate more than ever before. However the ‘knowledge divides’ that characterize much of current social science’s production, access and use threaten the role of social science expertise and undermine the capacity of policy-makers and civil society to address current challenges.
Worldwide poverty, inequality and climate change are among the current major challenges to which social sciences should contribute a response. More and better social science is vital. To cope, capacity must be built, particularly in the regions where social problems are most acute and social science systems most anemic.
This Report provides a comprehensive review of the state of the social sciences in the world. It:analyses some of the most critical global problems confronting humanity, as perceived by renowned specialists from different social science disciplines, and highlights the social sciences' potential contribution to their analysis and identification of solutions;
provides a detailed description of the organization of social science production in different regions of the world, with an emphasis on issues confronted;
reviews the different factors that contribute to the depletion of national capacities, including brain drain;
analyses the inequalities in knowledge production that result from major inequalities in capacity across regions and countries;
reviews the impact of internationalization of the social sciences, the homogenization trends as well as possible alternatives to existing hegemonies;
discusses the divides and bridges between disciplines; and identifies new trends in social science themes, methods and disciplines;
assesses the impact of the recent trends in assessment and funding which tend to emphasize competition in social science production;
analyses the relationship between social scientists, policy-makers and society at large;
makes concrete proposals for tackling the challenges.
This Report has been prepared by the International Social Science Council at the request of UNESCO. It results from the collaboration of high-level specialists from all over the world.