Utrecht University: Social Sciences and Humanities set priorities for strengthening foundation and maximizing impact

More than ever, Social Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Economic Sciences are seeking collaboration to operate more decisively across university and discipline boundaries. They have organized themselves within the so-called Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSH Council) and together they make choices in national sector plans. After a two-year sector plan for Law, there is now a new sector plan ‘From insight to impact’ from the Social Sciences and a priority choice from Humanities.

Social Sciences
With their sector plan external link, the Social Sciences choose to strengthen educational science, strengthen open science and improve the connection of the programs to the job market. The sector focuses on five interdisciplinary themes, some of which can also have an SSH-wide impact. These themes are youth resilience, mental illness, the human factor in new technologies, social transition and behavior change, and social inequality and diversity.

Humanities
The choices made by the Humanities align with the 2018 SSH Domain Assessment, a 2019 KNAW advisory, and the Minister’s response in 2020. As the Minister points out, the endangered unique expertise of language and culture experts is of great social, economic and scientific importance. This, according to the faculties, requires strengthening of cooperation and also investments. In addition, two interdisciplinary themes are proposed in which SSH-wide collaboration can take place, namely: human artificial intelligence, and cultural heritage and identity.

Together, the SSH Domain covers one third of the scientific workforce in the Netherlands and almost half of the university student population.

Crucial knowledge
Together, the SSH Domain, with 26 main disciplines, covers one third of the scientific workforce in the Netherlands and almost half of the university student population. Thanks to the quality of its teaching and its well-educated graduates, the SSH Domain provides crucial knowledge and skills for Dutch society and is particularly important for the success of the Netherlands as a service economy. The quality of most of the SSH research is, despite the persistently high workload, of a very high international standard. At the same time, many SSH researchers are on their toes; the risk of going under, or losing talent to foreign countries, is greater than ever.

With the cooperation in the SSH domain, important steps are now being taken. This makes it increasingly possible to use expertise together to address major social issues.

Bas van Bavel
SSH Council President
Investments
According to SSH Council President Bas van Bavel external link, it is therefore crucial for the sector to set clear priorities while also investing heavily. “With the cooperation in the SSH domain, important steps are now being taken. This makes it increasingly possible to use expertise together to address major social issues.” In doing so, he says, the SSH perspective is not only leading when it comes to issues such as social polarization, growing inequalities, or the future of democracy and the rule of law. It is also a necessary complement to the often highly technological approach to other issues, whether it is the corona crisis, the energy transition or digitalization. Van Bavel: “We see more and more clearly how SSH expertise is necessary to arrive at socially supported solutions and to actually convert technological knowledge into earning power and prosperity.”

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