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Social science report gives a snapshot on the discipline

29 June 1999

Unesco's first World Social Science Report, which looks at the state and evolution of societies, and provides a picture of modern social science and its many interfaces, was launched at a press briefing during the World Conference on Science yesterday.

Francine Fournier, assistant director-general for social and human sciences at Unesco, says that that the report is intended to "provide an ongoing basis for fundamental, analytical and cultural review of the main issues faced and addressed by the social sciences".

The report is part of an group of Unesco reports in education, culture, communication and science. "It's the occasion to review progress the social sciences have made in the past one hundred years," says Fournier.

Piotr Sztompka, professor of sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Warsaw, Poland, and author of a chapter in the report, said that some aspects of democracy were "indispensible for science", but warned that the closeness between the two should not be exaggerated.

Science demands excellence, and is therefore hierarchical by nature, with elites based on meritocratic standards of achievement. "Equality of opportunity for research excellence is the only democratic principle [in science]", he said.

Launching the report, Unesco director-general Federico Mayor explained that it was the last in the group to have appeared since his arrival because it "was the most difficult". Asked why the social sciences were so poorly represented at the World Conference 'The social sciences must be heard', 28 June 1999), he explained that "from the beginning it was conceived as a conference on natural science".


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