MOE to put in $350 million for social sciences and humanities research over next five years

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the launch of the Singapore Management University's (SMU's) Institute for Societal Leadership.
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the launch of the Singapore Management University's (SMU's) Institute for Societal Leadership.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Social sciences and humanities will receive a boost in support, with the Ministry of Education (MOE) setting aside $350 million over the next five years for research in those fields.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday (Nov 7) said that this represents an increase of 45 per cent of MOE's spending on research in social sciences and humanities in the last five years.

This latest push in funding is part of the work of the new Social Science Research Council (SSRC) set up by the Government in January to provide concerted direction for social science and humanities research as Singapore matures as a nation, such as in the areas of ageing and social mobility.

From the time the council made its first grant call in May, until August when the call closed, 70 proposals were received from several institutions, said Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the launch of the Singapore Management University's (SMU's) Institute for Societal Leadership.

This year the Social Science Research Thematic Grant focused on three broad themes: building identities, social integration and resilience; how to develop new models of training and education; and spurring growth, productivity and innovation.

There are two tiers of funding under the grant. The first supports smaller-scale investigator-led research in areas of thematic interest. Projects under this will receive $100,000 to $1 million for up to three years.

Projects belonging to the second type of funding will get more than $1 million to $10 million over three to five years. These will be larger-scale inter-disciplinary research that will be more ambitious.

The results of the grant call are expected to be announced early next year.

Mr Tharman said the three main ways the council aims to develop the social science and humanities research ecosystem are: by supporting research that is relevant to Singapore and other societies; building global networks of researchers and policymakers, as well as encouraging cross-disciplinary work; and developing local talent in these fields.

"Our region today is a fascinating and fertile ground for study, but scholarship has not caught up with its growing importance. We can and must build up this scholarship in the region that can inform and spur both policy reform and the initiatives of societal leaders," he said.

The SSRC has started to engage organisations and thought leaders around the world, he added, such as the Social Science Research Council in New York and the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University.

"I hope that we will develop a culture that celebrates and values the social sciences and humanities, and recognises their potential for improving society, here in Singapore and in the region," Mr Tharman said.