The spread of the Covid-19 virus has presented an unparalleled challenge for society, academia and the social sciences.
Whilst the medical and scientific establishment have mobilised to respond to theoutbreak, discussions around how social science will both impact and be impactedby Covid-19 have been more muted and often secondary to scientific concerns, yetthey remain, now more than ever, necessary.
“At the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, we acknowledgethat it cannot be business as usual. Our focus and priority continue to be serving andsupporting the humanities and social sciences community in any way we can,particularly when requested. We have put all necessary arrangements and with allmeasures in place, we are confident that our systems will enable us to continue with
operations remotely”, says Prof Sarah Mosoetsa, CEO of the NIHSS.
There is little doubt that an effective response to Covid-19 will require socialscientific expertise. As with previous epidemics, such as Ebola, social scienceresearch and expertise have proven invaluable in combatting infectious diseasesand contributing to epidemiology and public health, which are themselves both examples of multidisciplinary fields that from their inception have been strongly influenced by a wide range of social science disciplines.
Covid-19 has already presented itself as a deeply social issue. Public healthmeasures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, from hand-washing, self-isolationto city lockdowns, all require insights from social research if they are to be effective.
“The effects of social distancing on families, education and psychological wellbeingpose yet more challenges for social researchers. Even the way in which informationabout the virus is communicated, is again a key area in which social research canmake real contributions. In all these areas and more, social science has animportant role to play, by directly contributing to policy, but also by acting as a criticalfriend, which raises the urgent question: how can this wealth of knowledge andexpertise best be communicated?”, adds Prof Mosoetsa.
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