Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam has announced that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will set aside $350 million over the next five years for research in fields of social sciences and humanities.

Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the launch of the Institute for Societal Leadership (ISL) under the Singapore Management University (SMU), said that the amount is approximately an increase of 45 percent from MOE’s spending on social science and humanities research over the last five years.

This funding is part of Social Science Research Council (SSRC), which was set up by the Government in January, to provide concerted direction for social science and humanities research as Singapore matures as a nation.

Mr Tharman said that from the time the council made its first grant call in May until August when the call closed, MOE received 70 proposals from eight institutions in Singapore namely SMU, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Institute of Technology, SIM University, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He said that the Council is working to strengthen the network of researchers, policymakers and thought leaders around the world.

Mr Tharman said, “I hope the council’s efforts would encourage more robust discussion and collaboration between our research community and policy makers, for example in methods to promote social mobility or a lifelong approach to human capital development.”

He stated that this year the Social Science Research Thematic Grant focused on three broad themes:

  • Building identities, social integration and resilience.
  • Develop new models of training and education.
  • Spurring growth, productivity and innovation.

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

The second supports larger-scale inter-disciplinary research which will get more than $1 million to $10 million over three to five years. Mr Tharman hopes that MOE will announce the results of the grant call early next year.

There are three main ways that the council aims to develop the social science and humanities research ecosystem which are; building global networks of researchers and policymakers, as well as encouraging cross-disciplinary work, and developing local talent in these fields.

Mr Tharman said, “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 also noted that the SSRC has started to engage organisations and thought leaders around the world, such as the Social Science Research Council in New York and the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University.

Mr Tharman stated, “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.”

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