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What social science can offer us in a time of COVID-19

Katie Metzler is an associate vice president at Sage Publishing and involved with social science outputs for over for 15 years. Writing in the Times Higher Education Online, accessed here, she has posed the question of whether the coronavirus pandemic ultimately will be a good or a bad thing for the social sciences, because the social sciences can ask the kinds of questions and examine the kinds of topics that the expertise from other disciplines does not take account of. Criticisms, she points out, have complained that the government might listen to social science at all because only medical expertise is seen to really count in present circumstances. So much for Twitter and other social media and their users’ comprehension of what is currently unfolding. She also proposes that the research agendas of the social sciences will need to change profoundly, for “it does feel as though this is the time for the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts, and for specialists to bring their expertise and insight together not just to cope with the crisis but to help promote a regrowth of culture, society and economy in ways that enable future generations to further flourish”. But can and should disciplinary differences be elided in the way implied here, what about different agendas and approaches and the benefits of pursuing these rather than mashing them together? Also the idea of ‘promoting regrowth‘ seems rather tame and mechanistic, especially when the current mood seems to be more one of seizing the opportunity to make something better.

Published by

Liz Stanley

Liz Stanley is Professor of Sociology @ University of Edinburgh, email I’m a feminist sociologist who works on everyday documents of life, particularly letters, to research social change over time.

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