Developing social science identities in interdisciplinary research and education

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Jan 12, 2017
Eric Toman


What does it mean to include a ‘social scientist’ in a team tackling complex problems? Here, I focus on complex environmental problems and how biophysical and social scientists work together. I’m curious if social scientists face the same issues in other problem areas, such as health. 

Things have improved since my early academic career, when I was often asked to justify why a social scientist deserved a seat at the table when discussing environmental questions. It seemed that even supportive natural scientists were motivated to engage their social science colleagues only to ‘fix’ some type of problem caused by people (e.g. politicians, decision-makers, managers, the ‘general public’).

While it’s now normal for social scientists to be included, they tend to be lumped together, unlike the biophysical scientists who are differentiated into a range of disciplines with relevant specialization areas. There seems to be limited understanding of the different disciplinary areas within the social sciences, each with its own body of knowledge and historical tradition.

Read the full blog post in The London School of Economics and Political Science's Impact Blog.

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