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Monday, April 6, 2020
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NIHSS calls for a social science response to COVID-19

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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 the
outbreak, discussions around how social science will both impact and be impacted
by Covid-19 have been more muted and often secondary to scientific concerns, yet
they remain, now more than ever, necessary.

“At the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, we acknowledge
that it cannot be business as usual. Our focus and priority continue to be serving and
supporting the humanities and social sciences community in any way we can,
particularly when requested. We have put all necessary arrangements and with all
measures 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 social scientific
expertise. As with previous epidemics, such as Ebola, social science research and
expertise have proven invaluable in combatting infectious diseases and 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 health
measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, from handwashing, self-isolation
to city lockdowns, all require insights from social research if they are to be effective.
“The effects of social distancing on families, education and psychological wellbeing
pose yet more challenges for social researchers. Even the way in which information
about the virus is communicated, is again a key area in which social research can
make real contributions. In all these areas and more, social science has an important
role to play, by directly contributing to policy, but also by acting as a critical friend,
which raises the urgent question: how can this wealth of knowledge and expertise
best be communicated?”, adds Prof Mosoetsa.

As President Ramaphosa said, “Covid-19 is a real threat to the livelihoods of our
people. We all agree that our country is in an extreme position that requires
extraordinary measures, but that also requires that we should find a way of working
together, in solidarity as well as in partnership.”
The Institute therefore welcomes, any information and advice on how best we can
continue to support each other.

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