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September 15, 2004

public social science

I recommend an article by Craig Calhoun, President of the Social Science Research Council, entitled Toward a More Public Social Science (pdf). I endorse all of Calhoun's key points:

1. "Engagement with public constituencies must move beyond the dissemination model. It is not enough to say that first scientists will do whatever 'pure' research moves them and then, eventually, there will be a process of dissemination, application, and implementation." Instead, social scientists need to develop appropriate two-way relationships with journalists, librarians, non-specialist readers, policymakers, and others.

2. "Public social science does not equal applied social science. More 'applied' research may be helpful, but the opposition of applied to pure is itself part of the problem. It distracts attention from the fundamental issues of quality and originality and misguides as to how both usefulness and scientific advances are achieved."

3. "Problem choice is fundamental." There is no pure scientific agenda; the choice of what to study is always a matter of values. These values should be articulated publicly, acceptable to non-scientists, and informed by public deliberation.

4. "A more public social science needs to ask serious questions about the idea of 'public' itself. What is 'the public'? How are its needs or wants or interests known?'"

Posted by peterlevine at September 15, 2004 11:53 AM

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