UNESCO publishes first World Social Science Report

July 02, 1999

Budapest, Hungary, June 28 - UNESCO today launched its first World Social Science Report, the latest in the series of World Reports published in recent years on education, the natural sciences, communication, and culture, the Organization's fields of competence.

"The social sciences are well placed to explore the multiple interfaces between local and global systems," UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor said explaining the importance of the report: "They can provide the knowledge required by decision-makers to formulate policies that anticipate change rather than merely react to it. They can help us to rise above short-sighted approaches to economic development. UNESCO is committed to promoting the development of the social sciences in order to maximize their potential service for policy-makers and society at large."

The World Social Science Report 1999, launched within the framework of UNESCO's World Conference on Science, is the first of a series. It builds on the experience of the World Science Report, and extends coverage from the natural to the social sciences, studying the state and evolution of societies, and the human sciences which focus on the nature and behaviour of the individual within society.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Francine Fournier, explained the importance of the World Social Science Report (WSSR) and its connection to the sciences: "Scientific discoveries and their technological applications introduce major social transformations: migrations, overall employment structures, ways of life and socio-cultural behaviour and relations with the environment, to name but a few. It is of primary importance to understand and foresee these transformations so that their positive potential can be enhanced and their possible negative impacts mitigated. The 21st century will need the full contribution of the social sciences for this task."

The WSSR is the only publication to respond to this challenge. It focuses on some of the crucial problems of today in particular: science and technology in society, development and the environment, and asks the fundamental question: what contributions have the social sciences made to understanding, managing, and ultimately solving these problems?

At the same time, it examines how the social sciences are currently organised, financed and practised in different parts of the world. Questions tackled include: the provenance, processing, analysis and transmission of data; relations between social science research policy, politics, ethics, and the media.

The World Social Science Report also presents overviews on some broad regions of the world. There is, for example, a study of the organisation of the social sciences in the OECD countries, where reliable and detailed figures on budgets, teaching, and research are available. One chapter reviews the recovery of the social sciences in Western Europe following World War II. A chapter is also devoted to the social sciences in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe with an additional chapter on Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Two further chapters overview the social sciences in Latin America. Southern Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, North Africa and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa are also surveyed.

The following issue of the Report will cover in depth the status and development of the social sciences in the USA as well as various other regions, for example the Caribbean.

The Report is divided into two parts. The first, A Global Picture, provides a bird's eye view of the history (since the 18th century), future prospects, and current organisation, financing and resources of the social sciences. The second takes up three central issues: science and technology in society, development, and the environment. A final section reviews two areas of contact between the natural and social sciences - cognitive science and the evolutionary study of human behaviour.

The World Social Science Report was prepared under the leadership of two co-editors, Ali Kazancigil and David Makinson, of UNESCO's Sector of Social and Human Sciences. The editors co-ordinated a network of offices, organisations, and individuals who contributed to the WSSR. Valuable input for the regional overviews has been provided by UNESCO's field offices in different parts of the world.
Two major social science organisations, the International Social Science Council (ISSC), and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), provided essential contributions to the WSSR. The ISSC commissioned, on behalf of UNESCO, some chapters, and most of the "boxes," from specialists in its professional member organisations. The SSRC provided valuable input from its Regional Advisory Panels, complementing the contribution made by UNESCO field offices.

A Scientific Advisory Board of eminent social scientists, helped plan the structure of the Report and select authors. Its members were Professors Raktamal Barman Chandra (India), John C. Caldwell (Australia), Nazli Choucri (USA), Akin L. Mabogunje (Nigeria), Carole Pateman (USA), Kurt Pawlik (Germany), Neil Smelser (USA), Rodolfo Stavenhagen (Mexico), Oswaldo Sunkel (Chile), Anna K. Tibaijuka (Tanzania), and Yue-man Yeung (China).

The French-language edition of the report is to be published later this year, while follow-up issues are to be published at two-year intervals.


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