ODT: NZ underestimates social scientists

cows grazingRob Burton explains why New Zealand’s current attitude towards social science, particularly in agriculture, may be far from optimal.

While current practices are to use social scientists in an ‘expansionist’ way, to spread new technologies out to farmers, he argues that social scientists should instead be used to help facilitate dialogue between scientists and farmers, in order to develop appropriate and adoptable technologies.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“The role of social scientists is to take these new technologies to the farmers and make them want to use them to function as agricultural extensionists.

“Here is my problem: agricultural extension is not a social science.

“While in the outside world, social scientists are economists, anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists, geographers and so on and are valued for their contribution to understanding human behaviour (for use in policy development, land-use change modelling, systems development, etc.); in New Zealand we are extensionists, purveyors of widgets (mechanical tools, computer software, hybridised plant varieties, bio-engineered products, etc) dreamed up by the technologists.

“Why is it, when the rest of the world understands the need for social science, New Zealand fails to appreciate its value?”