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Articles on Social Sciences

The Paid Journal Trend: A Roadblock To Quality Higher Education

By Adfer Rashid Shah, Mohd. Rais Khan, Swaleha A Sindhi & Aparna Dixit

26 August, 2013


“The aim of this article is to emphasize upon the menace of racketing journals and proliferation of low standard publications that publish everything and thrive on payment basis without caring for the research quality or research methodology adopted. Currently such journals are being published round the globe turning the intellectual exercise of knowledge production (publication) merely into a business venture. Such a devastating trend has negative ramifications on the quality of research and higher education itself.”


Actually it is the research in higher education that leads to a quality higher education itself. The quality higher education in turn comes from the current research and new innovations that are brought forth and highlighted by relevant journals and books in any field of study. We cannot achieve quality in higher education if the research supporting the very education is not quality. In the contemporary times, we see scores of such journals and publication houses coming up and thriving upon the research and publications that lack quality, methodology, relevance and need but are simply reproduced on payment basis. Such journals and book publication houses have actually sabotaged the whole research ethic and quality in research and higher education especially in India.

The Economy of Publications

Are our scholarly journals really so scholarly? I think not all for money factor has crept in. The new idea of subscription and subscription fee paid not by readers as one would have expected but by writers themselves who want to see their name and gather publications in their credit in a plethora of such quality less but all quality journals. Writers write and pay not just the subscription fee but actually the publication charges and get anything published even without an iota of objective analysis, relook, revise critical assessment, review, rejection or academic ethics though peer reviewed labels on such frivolous publications remain intact. Now editors of such paid journals have made it a booming business where people are eager to publish anything to enrich their profile and strive for promotions or for well paid jobs in academia (now a lost tradition but well paid).Such a devastating trend has tarnished the standard of research in the contemporary times and turned the whole exercise meaningless and most importantly commercial. Now the 'Reader Pays' pricing model is fading but writer pays and sees himself published model is flourishing. Such an 'Author Pays' pricing model has certain negative fallouts like compromise over research quality, factuality, objectivity, empiricism, careful editing, error free jottings, lack of writings with impact, writings for change, writings for contribution to the body of research or knowledge, etc, in the stuff published in such a fake peer reviewed journals. Further reproduction of a plagiarized content where there is open Access to one and all thereby diminishing the rapport of quality research work for the cheap trend of ‘write anything and get published and read yourself’ is flourishing too fast. In many cases the writer gets only two readers, both himself/herself and the journal owner. It sometimes gives a feeling that an editor/owner of such journals is hardly different from a truck owner.

Why Should a Writer Pay?

Why should a researcher pay when he takes lots of pains to conduct a study and sends free of cost to a journal just to see his name? He/she does so for circumstances demand so now. In fact journals should pay the author for they always get the free material (even not raw material) and make good business without actually investing much. This reflects sheer exploitation in publication business. But it is the powerless researcher/writer who hardly gets space just on quality (quality to big journals means what suits them) basis today thereby falls prey to such exploitation.

Factors Responsible

Such a trend has also got boost by API score pattern introduced by the UGC by virtue of which a rat race has started among the academics and they write anything trash/Google/plagiarized and get it published at all costs simply to meet their scores for the promotion. In this game cheap and quality less journals have evolved that publish on payment basis from authors thereby defeating the actual cause of academia and research and excellence. It has had adverse impact upon the research quality as well for most of the times it is nothing but internet material/content that is churned and re-churned with some language changes and reshaped in such journals. Also in the name of interdisciplinary approach, some journals even publish one article from management science, another from environmental science and the other from chemistry or zoology in the same edited book or journal which is totally of no utility.

The ISSN/ISBN Dilemma

Just consider the unchecked increase in the number of journals. Using Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, it was observed that publications grow at a rate of 3.26 percent per year (i.e., doubles about every 20 years). The main cause: the growth in the number of researchers and now by some policies of UGC and International agencies they are the responsible for rate race of publications at any cost by the researchers. In certain countries, all serial publications covered by legal deposit must have an ISSN. ISSN is automatically assigned and publishers should ensure that it is printed on each issue. When a publication (print or electronic, scholarly or non scholarly) is assigned an ISSN, it means that it is a continuing resource according to the ISSN criteria (a serial, a website, etc). ISSN does not provide any guarantee as to the content of that resource, or any evaluation of its content and does not provide evidence of its validity. The difference between ISSN and ISBN is simply that ISSN is assigned to serial publications while ISBN is assigned to monographs ("books"). An ISSN can be assigned to a series of monographs as such and an ISBN will be assigned to each separate book of the series.

Now- a-days due to UGC and other International regulations researchers are trying to publish their works in refereed and reputed journals but people don’t know about real phenomena of research journals. The publishers are earning big money on our work - even ask us for extra money to be paid to them for extra pages or full color pictures. While we the authors get absolutely nothing. Instead, we are even asked to pay the subscription to the journal we are publishing. Would this make sense to a book-writer?

Suggestive Rectifications

Especially in India, the paid journal menace can be stopped by following:

First, limit the number of papers to the best three, four, or five that a job or promotion candidate can submit. That would encourage more comprehensive and focused publishing.

Second, make more use of citation and journal "impact factors," from Thomson ISI.

Third, change the length of papers published in print: Limit manuscripts to five to six journal-length pages, as Nature and Science do, and put a longer version up on a journal's Web site. The two versions would work as a package. That approach could be enhanced if university and other research libraries formed buying consortia, which would pressure publishers of journals more quickly and aggressively to pursue this third route. Some are already beginning to do so, but a nationally coordinated effort is needed.

There may well be other solutions, but what we surely need is a change in the academic culture that has given rise to the oversupply of journals. For the fact is that one article with a high citation rating should count more than 10 articles with negligible ratings. Our suggestions would change evaluation practices in committee rooms, editorial offices, and library purchasing meetings. Hiring committees would favor candidates with high citation scores, not bulky publications. Libraries would drop journals that don't register impact. Journals would change practices so that the materials they publish would make meaningful contributions and have the needed, detailed backup available online. Finally, researchers themselves would devote more attention to fewer and better papers actually published, and more journals might be more discriminating. Best of all, our suggested changes would allow academia to revert to its proper focus on quality research and rededicate itself to the sober pursuit of knowledge. And it would end the dispiriting paper chase that turns fledgling inquirers into careerists and established figures into overburdened grouches.
Last Word

The UGC and other National and International agencies must look into this menace seriously and such exploitation must stop immediately so that we can improve the quality of research in India. Such a trend has also set a different impression among the young researchers who manage good number of publications through these journals without actually knowing about their publications seriously. It is s imply a mad race and needs to be stopped. Moreover, the fact remains that the academic publishing market is tuning more exploitative/commercial wherein hardly any space is reserved for young researchers by credible journals, who later in search of identity and pressures publish through payments. At least the conscious society must not let such a devious trend prevail that has already wreaked a silent havoc and still goes unchecked. Young researchers should not fell prey to these commercial journals but must try to contribute their writings in quality publications.

As a result, instead of contributing to knowledge in various disciplines, the increasing number of low-cited publications only adds to the bulk of words and numbers to be reviewed. Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole.

(Authors are the doctoral Scholars of Sociology, History, Education and Women’s Studies respectively. Record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at

Isa Daudpota

By Zubeida Mustafa | 7/10/2013 12:00:00 AM. DAWN NEWS.

THE competition for space in academia between the social sciences and the `others` namely, the pure and physical sciences, technological disciplines, medicine-related knowledge, and business and management studies has been a permanent feature of the intellectual history of mankind.

Our one and only Nobel laureate, Prof Abdus Salam, would always be lamenting that Pakistan lacks a science culture.

That not only meant that we neglect science in our universities and do not allocate enough resources for research. It also implies we do not inculcate the spirit of inquiry in our children and as a nation we do not analyse natural and social phenomena rationally and on the basis of scientifically verified information.

The treatment meted out to Dr Salam in his lifetime and after his death by this country vindicates his lament about our alienation from science.

The social sciences have fared no better. Dr Inayatullah, the founder-president of the Council of Social Sciences, Pakistan, felt equally dismal about the state of social sciences in the country. Adopting a solution-oriented approach, he emphasised the importance of `rigorous evaluation and verification` and proceeded to found COSS to serve as a forum for social scientists.

One may well ask, why this apathy towards the social sciences? As in the case of other branches of education, the fact is that knowledge is implicitly regarded as an enemy by the class that wields power and monopolises privilege.

Its anti-education stance obstructs the thought process in children that creates gullible adults who fall victim to charlatans of all variety.

Since the social sciences study the state, society, culture and people`s relationship with them they have a direct impact onthe lives of people. Lack of knowledge of the social sciences can be dangerous. These sciences are indispensable as they can facilitate positive behavioral changes and improve the processes and institutions that are concerned with the development of the human mind.

If the study of the social sciences is pursued vigorously and an open debateisencourageditcreatespublic awareness and gives rise to diversity of thought and belief thatacts as a check on the monopoly of state power. Moreover, the social sciences can be instrumental in promoting equity, freedom, tolerance and social justice which are anathema to the powers-that-be in an authoritarian set-up.

As Pakistan slides towards self-destruction, unsurprisingly the social sciences are going out of fashion. Take the example of the University of Karachi, the largest institution of higher education in the country. Of the over 31,000 students on its rolls, only a few over 9,000 opt for the social sciences which includes the faculty of education.

There has not only been a quantitative decline in terms of ratio. Quality has also suffered with only a few brave exceptions still struggling to do research of a high standard.

Another example of the uphill task faced by the social sciences in Pakistan is the failure of the Aga Khan Foundation to set up a university of social sciences in Karachi. This had been on the cards for over five years when it was decided to move the university to East Africa.

This was intriguing considering that a vice provost a British academic from the School of Oriental & African Studies had been appointed and had done some preliminary work in 2003-2008 before returning home.

The obstacles are numerous. It is not just the anti-democratic forces that discourage the study of social sciences.

As sociologist Rubina Saigol rightly points out, the rise of neo-liberal thinking and the withdrawal of the state from `the provision of basic needs have caused the focus to shift away from the core social sciences to management sciences, business and administration studies which supposedly make a person more employable` They, however, do not always produce good human beings.

When human activities are profit-driven ethics is the loser and the social sciences are the casualty in academia.

In Pakistan, there are other factors at work too. A very important one is the `ideological` needs of our rulers and the guardians of our morality who suffer from an intense sense of insecurity. Since they have education in their grip they seek to control the students` minds by determining the curricula and textbooks.

As pointed out by Dr Zareena Salamat, the vice-president of COSS, the social sciences need more indigenous research to produce textbooks for students than the physical sciences. She was responding to a suggestion in a forum that we should simply import foreign textbooks to maintain quality.

She pointed out, `The national education curriculum has become hostage to national security based on ideology. The state has used education for promoting national unity transcending identities for which language and religion are used as unifying symbols. Textbooks on social studies, history and languages are subjected to this theme.

That is not how it should be. If we wish to cleanse society of violence and polarisation, Dr Salamat emphasises that social transformation should be brought about by delinking education from its ideological moorings. `Textbooks must not be used as tools to shape national identity. Social engineering is required to create a society based on tolerance, interfaith harmony and democratic values.

Since the explicit acceptance of pluralism is the basis of all research in the social sciences, universities are not reputed for encouraging it. The physical sciences have this advantage over the social sciences. H2O is water wherever it may be. But the working of Britain`s parliament is not the same as our National Assembly. m

Indian Society for Education and Environment (iSee)

Call for articles iSee strives to bridge regional knowledge gaps and strengthen the academic ties among researchers and learners. In this regard, iSee publishes blind peer reviewed research articles, reviews, case studies and popular articles by open access policy (free) that enhance the visibility of the author’s work. This helps the researchers for professional consultation, higher citation index and at the same time benefitting the world community by means of unlimited knowledge sharing. 

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Neglect of Social Sciences and the State of Pakistan

Creating an Education Service is Imperative

The Neglect of Social Sciences

A social science revolution

 Neglect of Social Sciences and the State of Pakistan

By Ilhan Niaz


Published in Dawn, June 21, 2008

 The state of Pakistan has paid dea0rly for its neglect of the social sciences. The cumulative impact of this neglect is felt in terms of the declining quality of the state apparatus. Without a vibrant rational tradition in the social sciences the theoretical perspectives and empirical research upon which sound domestic policy-making ought to rest is woefully inadequate.

Related to this deficiency is the subservience to irrational tutelage that prevails not only amongst senior policy makers and advisers but also those outside the charmed circle of the power elite.

Then there is the reflection of this neglect on the quality of the personnel inducted into the state apparatus. Finally, it shows up in the incapacity of the westernised elite to make rational and moral connections between their own actions and the crisis at large.

Societies are highly complex organisms and the experience of catching up with the times, which is often consciously pursued by the contemporary state as a policy, adds to the complexity. The development and execution of policies in a modernising society require enormous reserves of rationality, theoretical consistency and broad learning, on the part of policymakers and the servants of the state.

Not everyone can spend years trying to comprehend the human condition. It is in some ways easier to study bacteria, rocks or chemical compounds for once one has mastered the technicalities. The social sciences, however, study humanity, and humans, with their mass of often contradictory impulses, imaginations, and insecurities - the suicide bomber being a case in point. And yet, it is upon people that policies need to take effect and thus for those entrusted with their formulation and execution it is imperative that they understand the particular group of homo sapiens they seek to govern.

In earlier times, such as during the British Raj or Mughal rule, it was standard practice for the servants of the state to be men of considerable learning themselves and interact, often intensively, with the intelligentsia. In the case of the Mughal Empire the sovereigns often set the standard for personal academic achievement and were emulated by their imperial officers. In British India the civil servants, both European and Indian, compiled, translated, and analysed, the history, culture, ethnography, languages, and administrative practices of their imperial subjects.

The British maintained an Indian Education Service (IES) under the All-India Services (AIS). The IES cadre included outstanding individuals such as Patras Bokhari and Allama Mashriqi and ensured high academic standards at the college level.

In the contemporary context the knowledge base and understanding related to society and the state is supposed to be developed by the social sciences. The stronger the social sciences institutions are, the more highly motivated their personnel, and the better the quality and quantity of research output, the greater will be the benefit to the state in its efforts to make and implement policies.

Parliamentarians, for instance, ought to have serious research staffs recruited through the public service commissions that can not only help them with policy matters but also help hone their attacks against political opponents. The policy makers may, of course, choose to ignore or reject the advice generated by a functional and motivated social sciences sector but at least they will not be able to plead that no sound advice or proper perspectives were offered.

In the absence of this advice and without a strong social sciences tradition of rational self-education of its own, the Pakistani group mind has become a dominion of entrenched irrational tutelage. For the upwardly mobile and successful, the favoured brand of tutelage is made in the United States of America. It comprises rhetoric about democratic development, free trade, democratic deficits, empowerment and the evils of the British imperial legacy.

The US brand of intellectual fast food is also big on national security and development paradigms. A look at our newspapers and research publications reveals that an astonishingly high proportion of the opinion pieces basically parrot democracy, national security and economic development.

The fact remains, however, that after fifty years of such parroting Pakistan’s westernised elite has failed to lead the country towards either democracy or national security or economic development.

The failure of the American idiom does not seem to diminish the appetite for tutelage. Indeed, rational reflection and self-education are frowned upon by our American benefactors whose enthusiastic belief in the universality and infallibility of their prescriptions compels them to demand absolute compliance from their clients.

While the most successful and ambitious individuals take to parroting the American idiom, those temperamentally inclined towards mysticism, romanticism and utopianism take to some variant of Marxism or Islamism. In either case their worldview is imbued with a set of messianic certainties justified by an internal logic that appears convincing to them.

They oppose the American idiom but only by asserting their own beliefs and, thus, help stifle a reasoned discourse and dooming the social sciences to irrelevance.

A classical example of this phenomenon is the debate about feudalism. Rather than trying to understand the patterns and nature of proprietorship in the subcontinent by studying its history, culture, and experience of governance, those engaged in the debate declare that feudalism either exists or does not exist. The fiqh in favour of feudalism hypothesis ignores the historical circumstance that the aristocratic institutions that existed in medieval and early-modern Europe, ranging from the House of Lords to the Parlement of Paris and the Cortes of Spain, have no parallel in South Asia.

Europe’s modern democratic institutions, the rule of law, private property, civil liberties, corporate autonomy, etc., grew out of feudal antecedents. The fiqh opposed to the feudal hypothesis, however, react angrily when the harsh reality of parasitic landlordism in large parts of the country are highlighted as evidence for the existence of feudalism in Pakistan. This dialectic, like so many others in Pakistan, produces much heat and little light over the nature of landlordism because the participants in the debate are not interested in or amenable to the adjustments of their beliefs to reason and persuasion.

Although Pakistan is not a hard ideological state like North Korea or Libya, its attempts to patronise and project certain pseudo-scientific and pseudo-religious views in the national discourse on society, history and the role of government, have greatly added to the confusion. Confronted by siege-mentality that prevails, social scientists in Pakistan have long given up efforts to either understand or constructively change reality.

The best among them manage to flee to the West where the material asymmetry between the patrons and clients leads them inexorably towards assimilation into the American idiom. The less fortunate join one of the local tribes and thus spend their lives adding to the background noise. The more conscientious and competent adopt a "correct" approach and spend their time in meeting the technical career advancement requirements while scrupulously avoiding making rational judgments for fear of tribal retaliation. Pakistan’s social scientists are left with choices such as escapism, sycophancy, partisanship, or, at best, making peace with a life of personal success but intellectual obscurity, moral compromise and irrelevance to the actual problems of the state and society.

At a more practical level, a weak social sciences tradition diminishes the ability of the state to recruit and train public servants. If the aspirants to public service being churned out by colleges and universities lack a sound grounding in politics, history, economics, and philosophy and pass on the basis of rote-learning and board exams, their ability to exercise power will lack the minimum depth and credibility necessary to its success.

And if the only social "science" they were to be effectively exposed to is Pakistan Studies their attitude towards society and the state is likely to be a mixture of cynicism, stupidity, and sheer ignorance.

If successful in entering the service of the state the training imparted amounts to little more than technical education complemented by a healthy dose of American "social technology". Thus, the State of Pakistan’s new officer-recruits are harangued at length about the importance of building a "corporate culture" and seeing themselves as providers of public services to the citizen who is to be regarded as a "consumer" of public services. Or they are taught about the importance of electronic governance as a solution to our problems.

It does not seem to occur to the imparters of this approach that whereas the singular objective of private enterprise is to make the maximum recurring profit possible, the many objectives of governance are maintaining order, dispensing justice, collecting taxes and improving the lives of those people who do not have the purchasing power to survive in the open market.

Or that the sheer complexity, difficulty and in the case of some departments, physical risk, of state service is so much greater than selling cars or mobile phones and "financial products" that it requires people of an intellectual and moral calibre far superior to corporate executives and salesmen.

As for electronic governance, it requires an uninterrupted supply of electricity, a computer literate population and highly trained and motivated data entry staff. In Pakistan even the infrastructural requirements for electric and paper government are not met given eight hour power cuts and mass illiteracy. Of course, it is not fair to expect a great percentage of the social sciences graduates and new recruits to understand these things or be able to stand up to the absurdities impressed upon them because they cannot learn if there is no one left to educate them.

And the neglect of the social sciences has meant that state does not have the manpower it needs to train the next generation of public servants.

Insofar as the citizen-consumers are concerned it is frightening how little even the westernised elite, which cannot plead poverty or neglect like the other 95 per cent of the population, knows about the human condition in this part of the world. Beyond a handful of extraordinary individuals the drive for rational self-education is almost completely absent.

Arguments are little more than reflections of the latest news programme or headlines. The ability of the elite to relate its own behaviour at an individual level to the crisis of state and society is limited.

Moreover, conspiracy theories prevail in the intellectual wasteland left in the absence of an internal culture of social science research and inquiry. These conspiracy theories are in effect a type of device that enable us to attribute the largely self-inflicted calamities that come our way to powerful adversaries and the malevolent motivations of our leaders or foreign powers and helps us cope with and escape from responsibility for our transcendental incompetence, irrationality and weakness.

The greatest conspiracy is our adamant refusal to try and rationally comprehend our history, culture, politics, and psychological orientation towards knowledge and understanding. By failing to cultivate the social sciences, therefore, the state of Pakistan has jeopardised its ability to grasp reality and in so doing made the task of ameliorating that reality immeasurably more difficult, if not impossible.

[The writer is a faculty member at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Department of History, Islamabad.]

Creating an Education Service is Imperative

By Ilhan Niaz

Published in Dawn July 5, 2008

"The pasture of stupidity is unwholesome for mankind." -
Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah.

 Pakistanis have a lot to complain about. Law and order is increasingly scarce. The state collects barely one-tenth of GDP as taxes and borrows or prints money to make good its fiscal deficit. There is a painful absence of civic sense. The wealthy will spend millions on their cars and many thousands on the latest comforts and gadgets but, should there be a pothole on the road outside their gate or an overflowing gutter, it won’t even occur to them to take the initiative and spend a few thousands on fixing the problem.

Corruption, administrative incompetence, religious obscurantism and political drama, however, are growth industries. The extent and the intensity of these problems grows with each passing year while the ability of the state and society to rationally comprehend the decay, let alone arrest it, is painfully inadequate.

At a little over sixty it seems that Pakistan is more or less condemned to be and remain a blighted and highly unstable combination of oriental despotism, Islamic obscurantism and western consumerism. That we could, and, indeed should, have gone beyond military coups, madressahs and McDonalds, is a counter-factuality for the escapists who search for the root of all evil which, if fixed, will miraculously solve our problems.

There are talk shows on national issues on scores of TV channels which is a positive development. The trouble is that the level of debate is very low and it is clear that very little research or forethought goes into most of the programmes. Much of it is sensationalism and noise masquerading as perspective and understanding. Even more depressing is the sheer amount of time our political leaders, senior administrators, eminent intellectuals, theocrats etc., spend in front of the camera. It is amazing that they manage to get any work done at all between hopping from one studio to the next. One prescription to ameliorate at least some aspects of this national cognitive shutdown would be the development of the social sciences.

In a marginal form the social sciences as disciplines involving research exist primarily in Pakistan’s major public sector universities. In a residual form they continue to exist as teaching disciplines in colleges. Below the college level there is primarily if not exclusively indoctrination and rote-learning. Even by Pakistan’s poor standards, the public sector universities, colleges and schools are poorly administered and do not receive effective fiscal support.

Reforming the administration of universities is problematic owing to their autonomous nature. No reforms can be successfully executed without the cooperation of a substantial majority of the faculty members. Each university, moreover, is highly idiosyncratic. It may, therefore, be advisable to constitute an administrative reform commission for the public sector universities that could develop a programme of reform customised to meet their varying requirements.

For the colleges and schools it may be best to reconstitute the old Indian Education Service (IES) as an all-Pakistan superior service recruited through the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). The training, remuneration and privileges of the proposed service would be at par with the other superior services. The personnel inducted could be rotated between the provinces and the centre and tasked with running colleges and administrative training institutions, teaching, research, staffing education ministries at the provincial/federal levels and serving as education counsellors in Pakistani embassies abroad. Members of the service would in turn be required to complete advanced research degrees (M.Sc., M.Phil., Ph.D., Post-Doctorates) as part of their career development requirements and receive special allowances and accelerated promotions if successful. Education inspectors, once an effective institution, could also be drawn from the education service.

The establishment of an education service at par with the superior services would do much to enhance the prestige of the education sector. It would certainly be an improvement over the practically non-existent administrative discipline of our colleges and provide the authorities with an instrument for enforcing standards and implementing policy. Actually creating an education service will require political will and considerable administrative feedback. Without the administrative means to implement a policy any talk of reform is predetermined to remain a theoretical exercise. Assuming that serious efforts are made to restore order and basic administrative order to the education sector in general, additional reforms can be targeted at the social sciences in the public sector universities and colleges.To begin with the qualities that social scientists ought to possess and the social sciences ought to inculcate need to be placed squarely before would-be reformers. One dares venture to declare that these qualities are technical competence in written expression, verbal communication and research methods, critical thinking, a well-developed capacity for reasoned argument, and a healthy dose of non-conformity. If the faculty members of social sciences departments don’t possess these qualities, how can they pass them on to their students. Our educators even at the highest levels are a rather uninspiring, complex-ridden and motley lot and it is hardly surprising, and perhaps for the best, that their students don’t seek to emulate them. Producing these qualities will require a fundamental shift away from the policy of the state to use the social sciences as tools of indoctrination at the lower levels and self-justification at the higher levels. It will require making subjects like political science, economics, philosophy, geography and history, compulsory across the board and rearticulating the principles and the details of the curricula. It may also require ensuring that the state-run schools and colleges have competent English-language instructors so that the children of the poor parents have at least an outside chance of competing for the good jobs and careers. And, it will necessitate the de-politicisation and de-theocratisation of campuses.

Bringing about the cultural shift required to vitalise the social sciences almost by default runs into the obsession with quantities that seems to plague those responsible for education policy. The emphasis has, at least since the 1970s, consistently been on increasing enrolment at all levels in order to inflate the total proportion of degree holders.

This policy may have worked if the education sector had been allocated six per cent of the GDP annually. Of course, not even two per cent of the GDP in annual spending was ever sanctioned and a substantial chunk of that was left unused, wasted or misappropriated. Thanks to this half-baked semi-populist approach, Pakistan sacrificed the qualitative advantages of its "colonial" education system leading, ironically, to the growth of profit-driven private sector in education. This approach failed to substantially increase the proportion of graduates and raise literacy rates, which remained relatively low compared even to other developing countries.

Even now the quantitative obsession continues and every effort is made to increase enrolment, irrespective of the state of infrastructure or faculty strength. In the social sciences this has meant arming individuals who cannot write a correct sentence or comprehend basic concepts with M.Sc., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees. There is nothing more invidious than a criminally incompetent social scientist armed with the paper qualifications entering public sector research and higher education institutions. The amount of damage they can inflict on the discipline and the institution is almost incalculable. If an impartial and sincere inspection commission were to be constituted today with the mandate of reviewing the qualifications and academic achievements of serving social scientists and examining the research output of our public sector higher education institutions in the social sciences it would quickly turn into a massacre of epic proportions.

In addition to policy shifts, a number of technical expedients may also help improve the social sciences. Social sciences organisations ought to receive formal recognition from the state and be treated at par with the equivalent natural sciences bodies. A separate set of professional and monetary incentives ought to be in place in order to encourage research publication in the social sciences.

Their departments ought to have full-time English and, as the need arises, foreign language professionals integrated into their faculties. An aggressive campaign ought to be launched in order to bring in expatriate faculty for the express purpose of research supervision. Faculty members ought to be required to give on a rotation basis seminars within their departments on a weekly or fortnightly basis. A golden handshake scheme can be instituted in order to ease out non-performing faculty members.

These are mere suggestions but in light of the above a scheme for the improvement of social sciences ought to incorporate certain principles. First, the reformers ought to acquire firsthand knowledge of the reality on the ground. Second, there must be effective means of implementation. Third, the negative reaction of those who stand to lose if standards are enforced ought to be anticipated and prepared for as an integral part of the reform process. Finally, given the failure of the macro-quantitative approach, the improvements suggested must be tailored to suit individual institutions and in some cases even departments.

[The writer is a faculty member at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Department of History, Islamabad and author of "An Inquiry into the Culture of Power of the Subcontinent."]

The Neglect of Social Sciences

 By Nadeem Ul Haque

Published in Daily Times December 29, 2008

WHEN TALKING TO YOUNG PAKISTANI economists and economics students, I generally, though not always, find their knowledge of modern economic thinking as well as of the trivia of eco-nomics to be quite poor. I have observed that while students, at least the good ones, remain focused on their course material, they are not inspired to read around the subject and absorb its culture and trivia.
During various outings at universities, I was sur-prised that students could not name the Nobel Prize winners of the year or any Nobel Prize winner for economics. Sadly, many Pakistani kids cannot even identify Pakistan's Nobel laureate - Dr Abdus Salam. Many well known economists in Pakistan also feel that knowing Nobel Laureates is not important to their knowledge base.

Our universities and research system are distancing us from the global knowledge pool. What kind of economists are we? Will they be good policymakers?

Fogel and North (Nobel Laureates, 1993) Have both shown us how ideas shape our societies. It is therefore imperative that we keep learning with rest of mankind. Loosely put, keeping abreast of global knowledge is the only way to progress and development. History has also shown us that regressive ideas can lead to societal ruin and even collapse.
Our definition of `economist' is  totally confused. Official circles have lost the ability to distin-guish economics, or for that matter other social science disciplines, from banking, administration, bureaucracy, and even engineering. As a result, our professors have no incentive to research and renew their knowledge and are rapidly depreciat-ing their knowledge.
The powerful policymakers actually seek to denounce learning, often proclaiming loudly that "we need to be practical" (and therefore need no global knowledge). Of course, practicality means denial of the global knowledge pool. This attitude makes us refuse to even distinguish between degrees and universities; spurious degrees are not differenti-ated from serious achievement. After all, where else can retired generals, civil servants, bankers and politicians all become leading thinkers, academics and policymakers?

Indeed, our policymaker is in denial of social sci-ence as a discipline. He sees any retired gentlemen or anyone with some experience in any managerial job as a capable social scientist. Economic talk shows often put up experts who have little or no knowledge of modem economics. No wonder, while Nobel lau-reates have proven the need for incentives and mechanism design (Maskin, 2007) and property rights (Coase, 1991; North, 1993), our local dialogue refuses to recognise such issues as legitimate eco-nomics. Instead, we remain focused on government announcements like export and growth targets!

Research and knowledge, then, is not at a premium in our society, and academic economics in Pakistan has become an extension of donor consult-ing where there are no standards other than pleasing the lower echelons of donor and local bureaucracies. Often, these reports are contracted to retired official with little transparency and professional standards.

A number of reports garnished with lots of irrelevant data and a lot of wishful thinking, but little serious economics, are put out by the donor; and the government every year. Much to my surprise, these reports are being taught in man; places as "Pakistan economics".
It is no wonder that our practical men in power continue to follow yesterday's thinking. Our policy continues to follow mercantilist policies, promoting exports and protecting the industrialists (cars an engineering goods industries) at the expense of our local population and our domestic commerce.

If only we knew our Nobel laureates! Hayel (1974), Freidman (1976), Meade (1977) and many others worked hard to show that protection was false policy goal. Lately, emerging political economy research - of which the precursors can be regarded as North (1993), Akerlof (2001), an Myerson (2007) - is beginning to show how protection can not only reinforce but lead to adverse political developments.

Disparaged and bullied social scientists either leave the country or let their skills depreciate. Financially-strapped, the research leaders of the country have had to surrender their independence and turn to consulting. Researchers can no longer define their research agenda and strategy according to their desires or in keeping with the thinking of their peers internationally. Instead they are told what to do by the petty donor or local officials.

Thus, while Nobel laureates were beginning to study  whole new way of studying human behaviour and society (Smith, 2002) and a completely new way to look at markets and regulation(Schelling, 2005), the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), led by donor funding, was continually col-lecting data and writing reports for projects such as measuring poverty, sector analysis and developing industrial strategy (whatever that might mean).

Timid researchers, leaderless and beholden to donors, do not research key issues such as our political failures, the failure of planning, the costly protection of cars, the lack of domestic markets, the failure of our key institutions such as the civil service and its impact on the deteriorating state of public services, such as the provision of water, energy and public education, our dysfunctional cities and the overall state of our failing society and policy. Instead, they turn to displaying their technical knowledge without daring to think and take risks with their research.

Comparing the consulting reports that are pro-duced with the knowledge being produced by the Nobel laureates, it is immediately apparent how our local knowledge pool is not keeping up with global developments. Interestingly enough, people who have no knowledge of the Nobel laureates are doing very well as consultants and star at local conferences organised by the donors.

No wonder then that our kids are not learning about Nobel laureates.

At the University of Chicago, several Nobel, Laureates - Becker (1992), Lucas (1995) and Heckman (2000) - taught me that to be a serious professional, I must live and breathe my subject. And to be a good economist, I must also become a social scientist. And indeed to be an academic, I must be interested in knowledge and all that goes with it.

It was thus natural to be absorbed in the lives of the producers of knowledge, the ideas they produced, their works, and their forums (journals and universities). These are important lessons to pass on to our students.

My hope is that a day, will come when colleges and schools in Pakistan will come closer to the global knowledge pool and develop a taste for thinking, learning and debating. In my more hope-ful moments, I dare to fantasise that some of these kids reading about the Nobel Laureates may even dream of being more than timid consultants and dare to win the big prize.
At such times, I also dare to imagine a future with a `social sciences-educated' civil society and polity that is capable of debating issues of complex institutions such as property rights - Coase (1991), North (1993) - a civil service organised on the principles of mechanism design and organisation theory - Hurwicz, Maskin and Myerson (2007) - and a fully open economy without subsidies and bureaucratic planning and leadership - Hayek (1974), Friedman (1976) and others.

Maybe then, our policy too will be based on seri-ous ideas domestically generated rather then consult-ing reports based on outmoded hearsay.
Nadeem Ul Haque is former Vice Chancellor of PIDE


A social science revolution

By: Mohammad A Qadeer



In his 'article, "The neglet of social science" (Daily Times, December 29,2008), Dr Nadeem ul Haque points out the liar-row technical focus that Pakistani economists have in their discipline. His plea for a broader view-of economics is well worth heeding. While fully agreeing with his thesis that the social science approach is neglected in Pakistan, I would like to extend it to include other disciplines such as sociology, political science, social history and psychology. In fact, economics is not as neglected as these disciplines, though they are equally for understanding the essential society, economics and state. This is not an attempt to carve out disciplinary turfs but a statement that points to serious limitations of our capabilities to understand and deal with our national problems. What is so essential-about the social sciences?
The social sciences anchor our thinking in verifiable facts. They offer explanations that are validated by observations. Overall, they inject realism and rationality in national discourse. They are based on the inductive method of perceiving and explaining the world around us. This method is common to all sciences - physical, biological, social etc and is the foundation of the scientific revolution that led the West on the path of prosperity and progress. Francis Bacon's philosophy of inductive reasoning opened this path for the West. Science is not a matter of laboratories and computers. Those are ancillary to the essence of science, which lies in the deductive-inductive mode of thinking that drives scientific inquiry. It is the way of thinking in which a theory, belief or hunch as an explanation of a phenomenon is as good as the verifiable observations that hold: it up. If observations do not support a theory or belief, it is discarded or modified. The social sciences bring this discipline to the individual and collective thinking. They do not dispense with beliefs or intuitions but subject them to the test of evidence. They are the bases of modern thinking. The West has absorbed the social science mode of thinking in its everyday life. Children are raised on the diet of verifiability of facts. Ideology and values play their role in everyday thinking, but they are ultimately arbitrated by facts and observations. The social sciences are not cloistered in universities and research institutes: they are instilled in every mind to some extent. And this has been the key to the advancement of western countries.

Here in Pakistan, our thinking is guided by aphorisms, horisms, analogies and traditions. In our public decision-making, we rely on packaged ideas and the whims of those in authority. In private life as individuals, we are largely driven by traditions Logic little in and emotions.  Logic plays role our mode of thinking. When do we hear our leaders citing figures and percentages to make their arguments? Hardly ever. Our parliamentary debates have long settled into person-driven. explanations. They have steadily ceased to be informed by, verifiable ideas and empirical facts. In the early days of Pakistan, ideologies were debated and public policies were vigorously critiqued, as can be verified from the Constituent Assembly's record of proceedings. But not any more. We tend to imagine facts to fit our preconceptions. The recent media revolution has paradoxically increased our proclivity to disregard facts and logic. The talk shows on TV are largely exercises in loud proclamations of personal beliefs and presumed facts. To give just one example, on being confronted with any recent murder of some minority person or bombing of another mosque/imambargah, our ` intellectuals' typical response is that Muslims cannot do this because Islam protects minorities and places of worship. 'End of discussion. That such incidents happen almost everyday in this Islamic country does not register. Faster with them. How are we going to solve this problem if we do not even acknowledge it? In the economic realm also, we pay little attention to Observable facts. Look at the poor state of our statistics, which are needed to monitor the economy. We do not have regular censuses, because those are not necessary to our {node of thinking. Our data on cost of living or public expenditures, for example, are manipulated to suppress unpalatable facts. We have institutionalised the untruth. Our policy makers have little use for data, so why worry about accuracy!.

We need a strong dose of the social science approach to perceiving and understanding the world around us. Our sixty-year history, of national development is a story of the pitfalls of half-baked ideas and ill-conceived institutions. Our progress has been impeded by our conspiracy theories, viewing causes in terms of persons rather than institutions and social forces, and the tendency to fit facts to our pre-conceptions. We could have been a happier, peaceful and prosperous society if we had respect for facts and constructed our understanding on evidence based beliefs. The social sciences are in a poor state in Pakistan. Sociology, psychology, history and even economics, though it is comparatively bettered placed, have not, developed a body of systematic knowledge about Pakistani society. These disciplines in their present state are not going to transform our thinking. We need to imbibe the inductive mode of thinking and develop these disciplines to be idioms of discourse in our social life.  Objectivity should be the touchstone of our public discussions. How do realise these goals? We se The inductive mode of analysis and knowledge gained by its application should form the foundation of our school curricula. The social sciences are the embodiment of such knowledge. They should be leading the drive for modernising education. We will not progress technologically by just building more engineering universities,, but by fostering scientific thinking through emphasising social science approaches in our school textbooks and public discussions. Madrassa . reforms should include courses in social sciences and not just the addition of computers. All in all, the social sciences should be a part of every day life rather than specialised disciplines. Only then will they flourish.

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