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Fragile or Vital: Social scientists’ roles and tensions in cross-disciplinary health sciences work

Fragile or Vital: Social scientists' roles and tensions in cross-disciplinary health sciences work

As many increasingly advocate for "cross-disciplinary" collaboration, what are realities of social scientists’ participation within the health sciences?

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Interdisciplinarity is in vogue! Academic institutions, governments and funding agencies are increasingly advocating for cross-disciplinary collaboration as imperative to address the complex challenges facing today's society. However, the realities of such collaborations may not match how they've been imagined. For example, how do social scientists’ experience their work in the health sciences that are more traditionally aligned with biomedical science, clinical research and epidemiology? How do social scientists add unique value? Which tensions and compromises characterize social scientists’ experiences in this system? Whether you are a social scientist, clinician researcher, grant reviewer or interdisciplinary collaborator, this Dialogue and Debate Series event will pique your interest. Sophie Soklaridis (University of Toronto) and Kevin Bardosh (University of Washington) will critically examine the roles and tensions of social scientists working across the health sciences. They will share research evidence and experiences on the topic from diverse perspectives. Community participation is encouraged via moderation discussion and an open Q & A session.

This is an open invitation. You may forward it to all interested parties. However, all parties must register to join the series. Space is limited and registration is filled at a first-come-first-serve basis. This session is free of charge but advance registration is mandatory. Upon registration, you will receive log-in details for the virtual (Zoom) event.

We strive to create a safe space for collegial debate, moderated discussion, and audience Q & A. This includes limiting audience size for most of our DDS events.

Brief speaker bios and presentation abstracts:

Dr. Sophie Soklaridis is a Senior Scientist at the Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She is also an Associate Professor at the Departments of Psychiatry and Family & Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. She is a Scientist at Wilson Centre for Research in Education and the Canadian lead and a core faculty member for the Master of Health Sciences Education in Ethiopia through the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration (TAAAC).  Dr. Sophie Soklaridis’ research program takes a critical social science approach to her work, focusing on the importance of patient and family voice as an imperative to social justice and humanistic care in treatment services, from perspectives of power, privilege, equity, identity and relationship-centred care.

Sophie’s presentation will discuss how the presence of social scientists in the medical health sciences are indicators of diversity and interdisciplinary perspectives, which are often thought of as a “good thing”. But what exactly happens to social scientists as they become part of the system they are critiquing? Perhaps social scientists are never considered to be part of the system but instead are seen as “liminal informants” straddling the (false) binary of social science and medical science. What are the conditions, possibilities, and limits placed on social scientists in medical health sciences?

Dr. Kevin Bardosh is a medical anthropologist and implementation scientist who has worked in more than 20 countries around the world. He currently holds affiliate and honorary positions at the University of Washington, Edinburgh Medical School and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and is a long-standing consultant at The Carter Center. A particular focus of Kevin’s work has been the integration of social science and community engagement in research and programs for infectious disease, environmental health and animal heath.

Kevin’s presentation will explore the integration of social scientists in the COVID-19 pandemic. It will start by discussing the motivation of health agencies in seeking out social and behavioral science expertise and the different roles (“hats”) that social scientists assume in response. In particular, the presentation will highlight the importance of social relationships, funding priorities and epistemic expectations in shaping the boundaries of collaboration. I will argue that making social science “useful” involves a process of anticipating what can be useful. While this is obviously important, this normative approach can also sideline controversial topics, minimize critique and assume simplistic conceptual frames. The presentation will end by raising a number of questions about the politics of knowledge in contemporary efforts to ‘make social science work’ in the field of epidemic response. 

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Fragility vs Vitality: Social scientists' roles in cross-disciplinary work in the health sciences

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