Experts emphasise importance of social sciences to policymaking

ISLAMABAD: “You can study political science in 46 various ways at 15 different institutions in Norway,” Norwegian ambassador Tore Nedebrebo said at a seminar on Wednesday.

He said there is even a trade union for social scientists in Norway which has more than 10,000 members, and which he is a member.

Mr Nedebrebo was speaking at a seminar on ‘Social Sciences in the West’, with an emphasis on what Pakistan can learn from Norway.

The discussion was hosted by the Pakistan Norway Association, as part of the Social Sciences Expo 2016 at the Pak-China Friendship Centre.

The envoy said the increased popularity of political science has influenced the Norwegian society and the government. On the one hand, he said, political scientists were employed in a number of fields including the civil service, business, media and academia, which affects policymaking.

On the other hand, he said no major political decision is made without considering political and social factors and consequences.

He said good research is very important for making good political decisions.

When asked what the differences were between the social scientists in the West and those in Pakistan, he replied that social scientists in both areas use the same methodologies.

He said social sciences have their own methodology, logic and discourse.

“The basic aim is to search for the truth, which is the same everywhere.”

But how can researchers from different areas agree on one truth when they might see things in very different lights, asked an audience member.

The ambassador answered that if social scientists from different areas came together to study a subject, they will together contribute towards getting to the truth.

“They cannot make conclusions but they can bring more clarity to the subject,” he said.

As an example he said that he was in Pakistan to defend the interests of Norway. In any discussion, social scientists from Pakistan will bring forward the interests of this country and after an informed discussion both will arrive at an agreement based on empirical evidence.

Iftikhar Niasa Hassan, a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Women University, said social sciences are not being treated justly in Pakistan.

She added that social science research at universities is not adequate and that the funds she had received for her research were from private donors.

The research that is done at universities is for “cosmetic purposes”, she said, explaining that policymakers seldom look at the conclusions of a research project, which is conducted simply to fulfill academic requirements.

She also raised the issue of the lack of text on social sciences with a local angle. She talked about a book she had authored together with other writers about the psychology of women in Pakistan.

“The book is badly written but I still maintain that it is better to study this book than foreign ones because it is more relevant to the women in Pakistan and books from abroad will only tell you about the psychology of women in the West.

“Our problems are different, our values are different and we should be studying material that is relevant to our issues,” she said.

Hafeezur Rehman, who has served as a professor at the Quaid-i-Azam University, also said that governments seldom look at the findings of research when making policy.

He said there is a lot of interesting research being done which deserves to be looked at.

He gave the example of a thesis he was supervising by a student who went to live in Norway for three years as part of research.

The thesis, he said, was about why Pakistani-Norwegians were not integrating with Norwegians and still preferred to come back to Pakistan to find spouses for their children.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2016

You can find a link to the story here

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