What is the role of Social Sciences and Humanities in the university – and society – of tomorrow? The Aurora universities will have a debate on that during the upcoming Biannual Aurora meeting – in Norwich, 9 and 10 November this year.
I would like to offer the following characteristic that works in the Social Sciences as well as in the Humanities needs to show in order to have a significant and meaningful role:
It has to bring a) critical reflection and value-driven discourse b) on the basis of falsifiable data.
Any work in the Social Sciences – and the Humanities – that focuses too much on just one of these dimensions, is missing the essence. Articles and pose opinions and theories, but are not rooted in solid and well-collected data, are easily exposed as thin air. The same goes for articles that are little more than a description of very limited cases and then draw far-reaching conclusions for the whole field. Particularly in the field of Internationalisation of Higher Education, this phenomenon is more widespread that is good for the field.
Any work that focuses too much on collection of data and statistical calculation or modelling – without a critical reflection from a broader social science/humanities perspective than the narrow paradigm in which the data were collected, may lead to highly cited academic articles, but help to create the kind of fictions of society that led to the subprime mortgage crisis.