The International Council
for Philosophy and Human Sciences

World Social Science Report 2010 - Knowledge Divides


The social sciences, which were dominated by western universities for a long time, are gaining ground in Asia and in Latin America, according to a report by the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC), published jointly with UNESCO. Entitled “Knowledge Divides”, it is a worldwide status report about these disciplines.

According to the study, North America and Europe still publish 75% of social science journals worldwide, with 85% of them partially or totally in English. A quarter of them are published in the United States. The disciplines that are the subject of greatest number of publications in the world are economics and psychology.

Two-thirds of social science journals in the world are published in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. The UNESCO and ISSC report highlights contrasting developments in the different regions of the world. Social sciences are developing in countries such as China, India and Brazil.

Thus, in Brazil, the number of social science researchers has practically tripled in the last ten years. In China, the Social and Human Sciences budget has increased by 15 to 20% a year since 2003. Despite this imbalance, the authors observe that the strongest growth in the number of articles published is in Latin America and Europe.

On the other hand, the Russian Federation and Commonwealth of Independent States have seen a sharp drop since the disappearance of the Soviet Union, due to the falling number of researchers and their ageing, while Russian universities struggle to attract new talent. In Sub-Saharan Africa, three quarters of publications in the field of social sciences are from a few universities that are mainly located in three countries; South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

This situation can be partly explained by the brain drain, even if Africa is far from being the only region concerned. The authors thus note that one doctor of economics in three working in the United States and nearly one doctor of social sciences in five was born abroad. “As this report illustrates, social scientific knowledge is often least developed in those parts of the world where it is most keenly needed,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, in her foreword to the text. “Social scientific endeavour is also poorer for its bias towards English and English-speaking, developed countries. This is a missed opportunity to explore perspectives and paradigms that are embedded in other cultural and linguistic traditions.”

The authors observe that the world needs the social sciences more than ever, in order to confront the major challenges facing humanity, such as poverty, epidemics and climate change. Social sciences do not respond to these challenges as much as they should, mainly due to disparities in the research capacities of different countries. Several hundred social science specialists from all over the world have contributed their expertise to this report. Gudmund Hernes, President of the ISSC, François Héran, Director of Research of the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), Adebayo Olukoshi, Director of the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (UNIDEP), and Hebe Vessuri, Director of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) are among the experts who presented the Report during its launch at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters today. “The social sciences have become truly global: they are taught almost everywhere. Their research results are widely disseminated,” stated Gudmund Hernes, President of the ISSC.

However, he noted that they have been often criticized for their inability to foresee major events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the 2007 financial crisis. But for him, “to face actual and future challenges and effectively address global and local problems, more and better social science is vital – i.e. understanding how the world works from the ways humans interact.” Looking beyond the progress and deficiencies noted in the report, Irina Bokova stated that “the report reaffirms UNESCO’s commitment to the social sciences, and our desire to set a new global agenda to promote them as an invaluable tool for the advancement of the internationally agreed development goals.”


Contact: Bernard Giansetto 33(0)

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World Social Science Report 2010

Social science from Western countries continues to have the greatest global influence, but the field is expanding rapidly in Asia and Latin America, particularly in China and Brazil. In sub-Saharan Africa, social scientists from South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya produce 75% of academic publications. In South Asia, barring some centres of excellence in India, social sciences as a whole have low priority. These are a few of the findings from World Social Science Report, 2010: “Knowledge divides”.

Produced by the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and co-published with UNESCO, the Report is the first comprehensive overview of the field in over a decade. Hundreds of social scientists from around the world contributed their expertise to the publication. Gudmund Hernes, President of the ISSC, Adebayo Olukoshi, Director of the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), Hebe Vessuri, Director, Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC), and François Héran, Director of Research, National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), France, are among the experts who presented the Report during its official launch at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 25 June 2010.



Press release - Social Sciences: 2010 World Report observes growth in emerging countries, also available in français | español | Русский | 中文

Executive Summary [PDF, 3.7 MB]

The full report [PDF, 11 MB]

Foreword – Irina Bokova (Director-General of UNESCO)

Foreword – Pierre Sané (Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences)

Preface – Gudmund Hernes (President, International Social Science Council)



General introduction (Françoise Caillods and Laurent Jeanpierre)


1. Social sciences facing the world
1.1 Social sciences and global challenges
1.2 The view from the regions

2. The institutional geography of social science

3. Unequal capacities
3.1 Dimensions of capacities in social sciences
3.2 Marketization of research
3.3 Brain drain or brain circulation?
3.4 Overcoming the capacity divide

4. Uneven internationalization

5. Homogenizing or pluralizing social sciences?
5.1 Hegemonies and counter-hegemonies
5.2 Tensions between global and local knowledge in practice

6. Disciplinary territories
6.1 Disciplines and their divides
6.2 Crossing disciplinary borders
6.3. Regional variations

7. Competing in the knowledge society
7.1 Global rankings
7.2 Assessment and evaluation of research
7.3 Project funding and agenda-setting

8. Disseminating social sciences
8.1 Social sciences, education and society
8.2 Diffusing and accessing social science knowledge

9. Social sciences and policy-makers
9.1 The political use and abuse of social sciences
9.2 Evidence-based decision-making 9.3 Knowledge brokers and think-tanks

10. Conclusions and future lines of action

  • Persistent disparities in research capacities

  • Knowledge fragmentation: one social science? Disciplines apart? Worlds apart?

  • Knowledge gaps on the state of the social sciences worldwide

  • Directions for future action

Annex 1. Basic statistics on the production of social sciences
Annex 2. Bibliographical databases and repositories
Annex 3. Supplementary figures and tables

List of abbreviations




Media Contact
Bernard Giansetto, tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 17 40,

ISSC Contact
Françoise Caillods, Senior Managing Editor of the Report, tel: +33 (0)1 4568 4443,
fc.issc(at), Caillods.issc(at)

UNESCO Contact
Cecilie Golden, tel: +33 (0)1 4568 4523,


  Article Source : UNESCOPRESS
July 28, 2011