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US academics expect people-oriented study emphasis Under Biden

The priority of the social response to coronavirus and the awareness of race-related factors may be posed by the current career of White House social sciences specialist.

The development of a new White House social science advisory role by Joe Biden raises hopes that academic researchers will be forced to become even more inclusive and results-oriented in their work.

Within his Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mr. Biden established the role of Deputy Director for Science and Society, and appointed Alondra Nelson, an experienced specialist on social inequities, to serve.

At an introductory conference besides Mr. Biden, Professor Nelson, President of the Social Science Research Council, offered only signs of her aspirations for the role.

She spoke of discovering methods to overcome global social issues such as the coronavirus pandemic in a more systemic manner, and of the need to properly determine the social effects of technology including artificial intelligence and editing of human genomes.

Several analysts familiar with Professor Nelson and her experience also said the new position represented a long-overdue realization that in public policy considerations, persons, their viewpoints and actions are too often side-lined.

With the coronavirus pandemic, scientists have created many vaccines, but have always failed to get the public to wear face masks, to address vaccine delivery obstacles, and to persuade individuals to get the shot, said Gil Eyal, a professor of sociology at Columbia University. “We have gnomically figured out the virus, however, we have not figured out the citizens who are carrying the virus,” he added.

Cecilia Menjívar, Los Angeles and president-elect of the American Sociological Association said such deadly mistakes shouldn’t need to occur.

Given the research experience of Professor Nelson, said Aldon Morris, a professor of sociology and African American studies at North-western University, she should carry the ethnic aspects of several policy failures to a clear perspective.

Professor Morris, the current president of the American Sociological Association, said that profoundly harmful race-based and wealth-based inequalities were allowed to exist primarily because they need to fully understand them was not taken seriously by policymakers and the scientific studies they consulted.

If Professor Nelson proves effective in having the Biden administration really accept the concepts she is prepared to pass on, that, he said, points to a possible shift in how academic researchers get on with their work.

“Professor Morris said, “I would hope that we will see scientists join these marginalized communities and have victims communicate directly about what the challenges are, and what they believe the solutions can be.

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