Image Credit: Jamie Prokell for Social Research

The Spring 2023 issue of Social Research covers the way pandemics, time pressure, and other modern ways of life have put the discipline of science under stress.


Social Research: An International Quarterly

Vol. 90, No. 1 (Spring 2023)

Ahmed Bawa, Guest Editor

Table of Contents

Ari Sitas
Science and Scientists in Distress
This essay explores why science and technology have been questioned in recent years. It tracks doubts about the veracity of science and the motives of scientists since the Second World War. It also explores ways that nation-states have used and abused the veracity of scientific opinion during the contemporary health crisis.

Geoffrey Boulton
Science for Survival
The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder that major and relatively unpredictable events can have a massive impact on the planet’s biosphere. Climate change poses an existential threat that requires a global response. The only major organization with the competence and experience to lead a global response is the UN multilateral system. This essay suggests ways this system could exploit the potential of the international scientific and technological community to address the climate crisis, though the political impacts could be profound and destabilizing.

Shiv Visvanathan and Chandrika Parmar
Science and the COVID Epidemic in India
This essay explores the relationship between scientific knowledge and democracy in India, using COVID-19 as a case study. It shows how the state consolidates itself through technological fixes, ignoring deeper issues in civil society. The essay covers the impact of COVID-19 on migrants and the informal economy and suggests that civil society needs a biopolitics from below. It discusses the need to rework concepts like citizenship and vulnerability and cautions that the epidemic has to be seen as a prelude to the deeper demands of the Anthropocene.

Elisa Reis and Felix Lopez
Clash between Science and Politics: The COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil
This article examines Brazil’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications of the politicization of science. We seek to identify what made possible a relatively successful immunization campaign, notwithstanding the opposition of anti-vaccine forces within the government, and look at how political power struggles informed choices that impaired the national production of vaccines. Finally, we look at negative signs emerging in attitudes toward vaccines, exploring possible causes and discussing counteracting policy initiatives.

Safura Abdool Karim, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, and Salim Abdool Karim 
COVID-19: The Challenge of Global Vaccine Inequity
Several safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed, evaluated, and made available in record time during the pandemic. But hopes of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines were dashed by corporate greed, political expediency, global trade agreements, and intellectual property ownership, delaying or denying access for poor countries. Once vaccines became widely available, their benefits were curtailed by anti-science sentiment and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Building trust in science is key to preparing for the next pandemic.

Jasmine E. Livingston
A Global Goal for Climate Change: The Place of Science in Politics
Climate change presents one of the biggest threats to our planet today. This essay explores the science-policy nexus of an important symbol of climate action: the long-term global temperature goal (LTGG). In particular, it examines how the scientific and political considerations that led to the strengthening of the LTGG from 2°C to 1.5°C have potential implications for the global organization of science and the place of science in politics, as well as for scientific practice.

Lizzie Sayer, Jenice Goveas, and Geoffrey Boulton
A Pandemic-Accelerated Shift to Openness: The Case of Scholarly Publishing
The need to understand and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic presented an enormous stress test for scientists and for scientific research. The need for rapid access to the latest COVID-19 research highlighted a number of longstanding shortcomings in scholarly publishing, most notably delayed publication of scientific findings and barriers to access for both readers and authors to fee-charging journals. During the global health crisis, innovations were made in scholarly publishing toward greater openness, such as accelerated peer review processes and increased use of preprints. However, different stakeholders across the scientific community will need to make a concerted effort to ensure that the openness fostered during the pandemic contributes to long-lasting change in scholarly publishing.

Melanie Smallman
Science to the Rescue?
During difficult times, many argue that science will come to our rescue. Investment in science, technology, data, and innovation is seen to be vital if we are to tackle the most pressing concerns facing society. But not everyone shares this enthusiasm: Whether it be anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers, there has been an increased adoption of populist views that seemingly reject the rationalism of science. This rise is not evidence of a public rejection of rational thinking, however, but rather a growing difference in the way people experience the effects of science and technology. Rather than a perceived crisis of trust, our biggest source of concern should be the different ways that technology shapes our worlds.

Michel Wensing
Social Science in the Time of COVID-19 
In the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, social science was underrepresented in shaping government health policy. There are several reasons for this, which reflect the perceived low status of social science in health science. Nevertheless, social science is important to health science in confronting misinformation about the pandemic.

Izabela Wagner 
Presidential Professorships: The Tenure Process in Poland
In the final stage of the tenure track procedure in Poland, after a candidate has been recommended by a tenure commission, the Polish president must sign the candidate’s nomination. In several recent cases, this final act has been delayed, revealing how politicians in Poland are able to control academic careers. This article analyzes the complex relationship between academics and politicians in Poland and how this relationship challenges academic freedom. Autocensura (self-censorship) is one of the key consequences of this relationship.

Click here to access the full issue of Social Research: Science Under Stress (Spring 2023).