Social sciences are aimed at understanding needs of society: Prof James Witte

The purpose of social sciences is to understand the needs and problems of society and find durable solutions as well as to provide solid recommendations and suggestions to the policymakers so that proper and useful policies could be formed for the betterment and development of the society and the nation. It could be possible when we have a neutral approach and social scientists, scholars and researchers play a positive role in overcoming the challenges being faced by the country.

These views were expressed by the director, Institute for Immigration Research and the Director, Centre for Social Science Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, USA, Prof Dr James Witte, during an online address at the inaugural session of the project “Building Community Resilience through Applied and Social Science Research”.

The University of Karachi, International Islamic University, Women University Swabi, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Iqra University, Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Institute of Technology, and US George Mason University are part of the project. The inaugural session was held at the KU Department of Public Administration.

Prof Dr James Witte shared that we have conceptualised the objectives of capacity building, strengthened academic networks, and sharing best practices through the development of a consortium of multiple universities across Pakistan. He said that we have been lucky to connect to partner universities that are possibly even more enthusiastic than us in the execution of this extensive training program.

“The simple idea behind the project is to empower and enable researchers with shared knowledge and activity-based learning through a series of training sessions on various research-related topics from experts from both Pakistan and the USA. We have designed the training sessions to address an array of research-related topics covering topics including data collection methods, SPSS, zatero, GIS mapping, and VIVO.”

Another speaker, Meritorious Professor Dr Abuzar Wajidi, mentioned that we cannot ignore the usefulness of social sciences in the present times as it offers solutions to public problems. He observed that we can easily address our socio-economic problems through research and suggested that the trend of research should be increased across the country to achieve fruitful results.

While briefing the audience about the project, one of the principal investigators, Dr Mustafa Haider, who is also an assistant professor at the Department of Public Administration, shared that this project is being launched under the US-Pakistan Universities Partnership Grants Program 2020-2022 and funded by the US Mission in Pakistan and administered by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan.

He said good governance is essential for social development, and due to increasing social challenges and changes, the field of social sciences needs to be adapted according to modern scientific lines.

Another principal investigator of the project and DPA faculty member, Dr Tehmina Faisal, observed that unfortunately in most of the developing countries, social sciences are not part of the topmost priority in higher education institutes and society.

She said that the training program is spread over an extensive series of eight sessions for two hours each for each partner university, focused on a variety of different topics exclusively designed to enable young researchers. Expert trainers from both Pakistan and the United States will be conducting sessions online.

Prof Dr Shahana Urooj from the Women University Swabi, Prof Dr Vali Uddin, the vice chancellor of the SSUET, Prof Dr Shams Hamid, founding director of the Imagine Institute of Future Studies, Iqra University, Prof Dr Syed Karamatullah Hussainy, director of Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Institute of Technology, Prof Dr Arabella Bhutto, co-director of the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, and Dr Sheikh Tariq, deputy director, Directorate of Distance Education International Islamic University, Islamabad, were also present on this occasion.

They believed that countries like Pakistan can be included in the list of developed countries if we focus on research in the social sciences. They said that most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are related to social development and we should seriously include them in our topmost priority list; otherwise, we cannot be able to match them.

According to the speakers, in developing countries, little attention is paid to the social sciences although it has a solution to their core issues like the economy, health and education. They observed that this project is the first project of its kind through which we will

promote social sciences.