3 min read

Oxford Minds: Reimagining social science

It is a time of social transformation and upheaval.

Even before the pandemic, policymakers were confronted with an urgent need for new thinking.

Climate change, rising populist nationalism, and the changing distribution of power in the international system threatened to destabilise established models of social organisation. 

Covid-19 has subsequently unleashed not only a major public health crisis but also a major global recession. The rapidity of its spread reveals both how interconnected our world is, and the fragility of globalisation. 

It has accelerated and magnified a range of pre-existing trends, shining a spotlight on economic inequality, the sustainability of global capitalism, and the role of the state. It has also heralded new opportunities to reimagine social norms in areas such as welfare and work.  

Against this backdrop, the world has also begun to reckon with the consequences of historic and contemporary racial injustice.  

These trends illustrate more starkly than ever the relevance of the social sciences. But they also lay down a challenge: the need for interconnected thinking in the face of complex problems. In order to understand and explain these contemporary trends, we are required to reach beyond disciplinary boundaries, creating new connections and dialogues.

Our thinking must be interdisciplinary in order to enable new concepts and ideas to participate in reimagining of the norms and paradigms that shape the thinking of policymakers and practitioners across government, business, and the third sector.

And this in turn relies upon creating new spaces in which social scientists, including established and emerging thinkers, can engage in purposeful and meaningful dialogue. In order to address this gap, we have created Oxford Minds.  

Oxford Minds is an opportunity for all our social science graduate students, whether on Masters or DPhil programmes, to engage in interdisciplinary debate on issues that matter. 

It is an invitation to reach beyond departmental and disciplinary boundaries, and actively participate in reimagining the social sciences for a rapidly changing world. The online series brings together some of the brightest and most creative minds within and beyond Oxford. 

The idea behind Oxford Minds came during the early Covid-19 lockdown period. We wanted to ensure that during the 2020-21 academic year, all of our graduate students, regardless of discipline, would benefit from exciting and engaging opportunities to learn online, connecting with and learning from people beyond their departments. 

However, rather than simply being a ‘graduate curriculum enrichment’ programme, we wanted to create something exciting with the potential to stimulate new ideas, and reflection that could matter both academically and for the real world. 

We chose to call the series Oxford Minds to reflect both that we are seeking to bring together Oxford’s bright minds in a conversation, and because the series is intended to reflect the issues that we ‘mind’ – the issues that we collectively care about and have the potential to unify academics and students across disciplines.

The aim is to offer opportunities to reflect on the value of considering key social science concepts and methods, even beyond the disciplines in which they are most commonly used and studied.

We hope that you will join us through the year, as we collectively reimagine the social sciences for a changing world.

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