Social Sciences in the World

Selected facts and figures from the 2010 World Social Science Report: Knowledge divides

Social Sciences facing the world

  • “The scale, rate, magnitude and significance of changes to the global environment have made it clear that ‘research as usual’ will not suffice to help individuals and groups understand and respond to the multiple, interacting changes that are now occurring.” (O’Brien)
  • Inequalities. The poorest percentile of Americans are better off than 62 per cent of the world population … Only 3 per cent of the richest Indians are better off than the poorest Americans….In Brazil the poor are among the poorest in the world, and the richest belong to the highest income percentile. (Milanovic
  • The world’s population practically quadrupled during the past century, growing from 1.6 to 6.1 billion people. (Chamie)
    By 1960, there were an estimated 77 million migrants in the world; 50 years later the number has almost tripled to 214 million. (Chamie)
    The proportion of the world’s population age 65 or older is likely to double by the middle of the 21st century. In a number of countries such as Italy, Japan or Spain, one out of three people is expected to be 65 or older in 2050. (Chamie).

The state of social science research systems around the world

  • “90 per cent of higher education institutions in the Latin American region are only engaged in teaching activities.” (Vessuri and Lopez)
    More than two-thirds of all Latin American post-graduate programmes where research is taking place are offered by the public universities of Brazil and Mexico. (Vessuri and Lopez)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has fallen dramatically behind in its share of world science production – from 1 per cent in 1987 to 0.7 per cent in 1996, with no sign of recovery.
    Sub-Saharan science has lost almost a third (31 per cent) of its share in global science since its peak in 1987. (Mouton)
    75 per cent of SSA academic publications in the Web of Science database come from South African, Nigerian and Kenyan social scientists, and from a few universities only. (Mouton)
    State funding of social science research in sub-Saharan Africa is the exception rather than the rule. (Mouton)
  • In Arab states, “There is a trend within authoritarian regimes to exercise a heavy control over the social sciences, limiting freedom of thought and setting boundaries in terms of acceptable and unacceptable areas for research and teaching.” (Arvanitis, Waast,and Al Husban)
  • In China, “The budget for the social sciences and the humanities, including teaching and research, has been increasing by about 15-20 per cent every year since 2003”. (Huang)
  • In India, “In 2005-06, 64.60 per cent of the 11.028 million students in India enrolled in institutions of higher learning were studying the arts and social sciences if we include commerce and education.  But “of  the 400 national universities, only a small proportion, 15-20 per cent, are teaching and research-based universities, while 80 per cent can be regarded as teaching universities only.” (Krishna and Krishna)
  • Germany and the UK together accounted for half of the public European funding for the social sciences. (Van Langenhove).
  • The Russian science system declined significantly after the fall of the USSR. Between 1991 and 1999, the number of researchers decreased by 458,500, and technicians by 128,200; only 18,200 emigrated, the rest went to other economic sectors. The current concern is the aging of R&D personnel, due to the difficulties of attracting young talent. In 2007 the Russian Federation had 13 740 researchers in social sciences, roughly the same number as in 1999; half of them were economists. (Pipiya)

Capacity Divide

Commercialization of research

  • More than two-thirds of all academics in the 14 Southern African Development Community region (SADC) countries regularly engage in consultancy. (Source: CREST, recently completed study cited by Mouton)

Brain Drain

  • One economics PhD out of three and almost one social science PhD out of five working in the United States was born abroad (Jeanpierre).
  • An estimated  average of 20 000 highly qualified professional left the African higher education system each year from 1990 onward for jobs in the United States, Europe, and even the Middle East and Australia. Social sciences and humanities were particularly badly hit. Disciplines such as history, archaeology and philosophy were endangered in many countries. (Olukoshi)

Success story

  • In Brazil, thanks to increased government efforts and investments in human resource development, the number of researchers in the social sciences has nearly tripled over the last decade. They now represent approximately 32 per cent of the researchers in the national higher education and research system, or 37,500 from a total of 118,000. (Guzmao)

Uneven internationalization

  • Research collaboration in the social sciences is dominated by North America and Western Europe. (Frenken, Hoekman and Hardeman)
  • Despite the globalization of research, peripheral regions have not become better integrated into the world social science systems over the past two decades. (Frenken, Hoekman and Hardeman)
  • The dependence of other regions on the West, as measured by citations, has increased over the past 20 years. (Gingras and Mosbah-Natanson)
  • Europe and North America account for about three-quarters of the world’s social sciences journals. (Gingras and Mosbah-Natanson)
    In publication of social science journals, the United States is first (with one-fourth) followed by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. Together these four countries publish two-thirds of all social sciences journals. (Gingras and Mosbah-Natanson)
  • English is by far the first language in social sciences journals: 85.3% of the academic and refereed journals covered in the Ulrich database are edited (partially or entirely) in English.
  • The largest growth in articles produced occurred in Latin America (an increase of 74 per cent), Europe (up 58.4 per cent) and Asia (up 56.7 per cent). The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including the Russian Federation, is the only group of countries facing a decline in its production of social sciences papers (4.6 per cent). (Gingras and Mosbah-Natanson)

Main fields of social science research in selected countries

  • ‘Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences’ is the main social science discipline in Latin American and Caribbean countries. For India it is ‘Studies in Human Society’ (including Sociology and Anthropology), and ‘Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services’ for China. (Russell and Ainsworth)
  • Economics and Management are major fields of study for Latin America (particularly Brazil, Mexico and Argentina) India and China. (Russell and Ainsworth)
  • In the Maghreb countries over the past 25 years, law and literature have been gaining ground, while history and economics have declined. (Waast, Arvanitis et al.)
  • Worldwide, the combined psychology fields and economics form the largest share of the output captured in the Social Science Citation Index. Over the period 1990 to 2007, the relative share of economics and management science increased while that of political science decreased. (Jonkers)

The demography of social sciences in selected OECD countries

  • In 2006, OECD countries delivered some 52,000 doctorates in the social sciences, around a quarter of the total doctorates awarded in the OECD area. For the second year in a row, more than half (52 per cent) of these advanced research qualifications in social science  went to women. (Auriol)
  • While doctoral awards have steadily increased over the past years (by 40 per cent between 1998 and 2006), those in the social sciences have grown even more rapidly (by 50 per cent), partly due to the increased participation of women. (Auriol)
  • The median age at graduation of doctoral studies is higher in the social sciences than in science and engineering. (Auriol)
  • In most of the nine countries for which data is available, unemployment rates of social science doctorate holders are lower than for the whole population of doctorate holders. (Auriol)

And elsewhere

  • In China the number of graduates in management studies, law and economics more than doubled between 2002 and 2005. Meanwhile the number of history graduates remained stable at a much lower level.
  • In Brazil, in 2004, 66 per cent of those who received Ph.Ds were employed at educational institutions, while another 18 per cent worked in different public administrations. Holders of doctorates in applied social sciences had higher rates of formal employment as well as higher salaries than the others. (Guzmăo)

Dissemination of social sciences to society and politicians

  • The decline in the sales of [research] monographs is one of the most significant trends academic publishers have had to deal with over the last two decades. (Hackett)
  • Nine out of ten existing United States think tanks were founded after 1951 and they more than doubled in numbers between 1980and 2007 (Anheier)
  • The recent commitment by some United States foundations to provide US$100 million over ten years to strengthen think tanks in the global South underscores the prominence of these institutions for the formulation of research to address national policies. (Asher and Guilhot)

Measuring input and output of social sciences

  • The measurement of the inputs to and outputs from R&D in general and in social sciences is problematic in all countries. There is no absolutely standardized process for data collection. Ultimately, the data are as reliable as the responsible national agency declares them so to be. (Kahn)
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