Sociologists everywhere

October 23, 2014

Amanda Goodall and Andrew Oswald’s argument that the social sciences need a shake-up (“Time for a makeover?”, Features, 9 October) seems to have overlooked the fact that social scientists are often employed in a number of fields outside their own disciplines. They are found in medical schools (health economics, sociology of medicine, social policy), energy, ecology, computer science, development studies, agriculture, nutrition and many other places. Indeed, the Medical Sociology conferences are bigger than those of the British Sociological Association and their journals attract a large number of articles – and not just from sociologists.

The methods of social research developed in the social sciences have permeated a great many other disciplines as the main way to study social life. One of us is involved in a sanitation project with engineers and plays a key role in this respect. The research councils as well as European Union funding have endeavoured to focus upon societal challenges, encouraging interdisciplinary work across a range of fields. There has been a proliferation of interdisciplinary journals that reflect these shifts, although there is an argument for shorter and more accessible articles in popular journals that can summarise a whole pyramid of research endeavour, as the authors suggest.

However, it is important to recognise that good interdisciplinary work is done on the basis of having strong disciplines in the first place, so it is important to get the balance right. While interdisciplinary work across the humanities and between social sciences has developed in recent years, it is sometimes difficult for sceptical and questioning social scientists to get recognition from disciplines with more positivistic outlooks. Perhaps it is time the sciences were shaken up?

Claire Wallace
Former president of the European Sociological Association

Pamela Abbott
Director of the Centre for Equality and Diversity, Glasgow Caledonian University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Scholar in Medicine

University Of Queensland

Manager, Research Systems and Performance

Auckland University Of Technology

Lecturer in Aboriginal Allied Health

University Of South Australia

Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery

Western Sydney University

College General Manager, SHE

La Trobe University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham