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THE government will establish a new Social Science Research Council (SSRC) by the middle of this year, to promote and strengthen the field in Singapore.
Announcing the move on Wednesday evening, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the council will provide direction and support for social science research - a field that is growing in importance as Singapore matures as a nation.
Said Mr Tharman: "New challenges will require fresh perspectives and new approaches in public policy.
"Social science research can contribute to public policy, especially as policy choices become more complex, or the trade-offs in each policy become sharper. A healthy and robust dialogue between policy-makers and academics can bring new and useful ideas.
"I should add that SSR can also strengthen our economy and create new niches for growth and professional development. In today's marketplace, technical sophistication is not enough to create great products. Ideas, emotions and subtle connections to human experience are central to creating value."
Indeed, observers have said that as Singapore tackles issues such as aging, social mobility, and social diversity, it will need to build up social science research in Singapore, so as to develop talent and capabilities in the area.
The high-level council will comprise prominent local and international social science academics. Mr Tharman stressed that although the SSRC will tap on some of the best minds from around the world, it will also have a "strong local character and local expertise".
Apart from recommending strategies and measures to promote a portfolio of social science research - with a focus on research in areas that meet Singapore's future needs and those of other societies in Asia - the SSRC will also be responsible for evaluating proposals for social science research programmes, and for recommending ways to develop talent in the field.
Examples of potential research areas include the dynamics of population aging, and ways to strengthen resilience and cohesion in multi-ethnic societies.
Mr Tharman also said that the government will invest more resources into social science research and its applications, on top of existing funding. To spur social science research and the development of new policy solutions, more official data will be generated and released as well.
"Many of (the challenges Singapore is facing) appear similar to those in the advanced or more mature societies. But the challenges in each society and the ways they can be met will never be identical. They will always reflect our distinct social, political and economic histories...
"We must therefore promote and strengthen social science research - studying trends in economy and society, the emerging challenges and opportunities, and how societies can best address them in this new era," said Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the Ngee Ann Kongsi 170th Anniversary & SG50 Celebration Dinner. The charitable foundation launched post-graduate scholarships for social sciences at the event.