No to navel-gazing

November 5, 2009

I recognised the story of social scientists' tendency to "address their peers rather than distressed mankind" ("Whither art: vanity is killing social sciences and the humanities", 29 October). Such navel-gazing could be the death of the discipline.

Before the last RAE, a geography department that fancied its chances of a top ranking dismissed my research because it addressed the real world, not solely other geographers. To be really "world class", I was told, I had to address other geographers and forget the real world. I left that department to engage with reality. I want social science to rise to the world's challenges, not turn its back on them.

Sara C. MacKian, Senior lecturer, faculty of health and social care, The Open University.

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