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Social science to further policy research in Singapore

07 March 2013

(From left) Assoc Prof Straughan, Dr Irene Ng of the Department of Social Work, Ms Beck and Assoc Prof Tan Ern Ser of the Department of Sociology at the first workshop conducted by the new Social Science and Policy Cluster

How can academics from the social science work together with policy makers to address issues in Singapore? This was the main theme discussed at the inaugural workshop by the new Social Science and Policy (SSP) Cluster at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) on 4 March.

Speaking to members from academia, practitioners and government officials, Associate Professor Ho Kong Chong of the Department of Sociology and Vice Dean of Research at FASS shared how policy makers draw from the social science in areas such as intelligence and monitoring for government data collection, and tactical research to devise engineering models or to obtain alternative interpretations.

Academics play an active role in addressing policy gaps, said Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, who is also from the Department of Sociology and Vice Dean of Undergraduate Studies at FASS. She highlighted that the civil service can tap on experts from the various disciplines at the FASS. This is in light of "social problems that have become more and more dynamic" and "require a multidisciplinary approach".

For researchers, Assoc Prof Straughan noted, participating in policy-making is important as they can surface good data and share realistically what is happening in the classroom and in Singapore.

Offering the civil service perspective, Ms Charlotte Beck, Senior Director of the Elderly and Disability Group at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), said she welcomed more links between academia and policy makers. While some of the work might not be published, consultancy work from academics is nevertheless "important work".

Some of the projects which members from FASS have collaborated with are the littering behaviour with the National Environment Agency and the study of work support with MSF.

At the Question and Answer segment of the workshop, questions raised included the future of the next generation of research and managing research findings with government's mindsets.

The SSP cluster aims to support research activities which devise social policies to enhance the well-being of individuals and communities in Singapore and other urban centres in Asia. It is one of the multidisciplinary Research Clusters advancing high-impact research in innovative areas of relevance to Singapore and the Asian region.