Pakistani researchers and university teachers are realising the importance of using social sciences more deliberately than before in connection with policies and planning, and to analyse problems in society. Social scientists can advise on issues related to reduction of extremism and conflict. They can also advise on how to improve the countrys fragile democracy, reduce the role of the army in politics and increase peoples participation. Social scientists can contribute to various aspects of foreign policy and international cooperation. These are barely some scant examples. Many other important themes can be added, for example, how social and economic inclusion of poor subgroups can be improved, including women, and how media issues could be handled better. Then you may say that these issues are political. Yes, most or all social science issues are political. At the same time, social science researchers must try to be neutral, or at least base their work on theories and empirical data. But they should also have opinions and values, and they should state this in their reports and lectures. For example, the way a social scientist chooses topics for his or her work has to do with world outlook and basic values, while political, religions, cultural and other aspects are included. After all, it is an illusion that a social scientist can be entirely neutral. But he or she must not be a sectarian politician and try to analyse, understand and explain the phenomenons and issues, even looking at them from perspectives contradicting the researchers own. But this article is not meant to be about neutrality and bias in social sciences. It is about the importance of the social sciences and institutions and organisations. And I will discuss some key areas that I think are particularly important today. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is the leading think thank and regulatory organisation. It gives advice and encouragement to Pakistans academic and applied researchers at universities, institutes, and even at NGOs and the private sector. HEC has a sub-committee for social sciences and the humanities, chaired by Professor Ihsan Ali, Vice-Chancellor of the new and fast-growing university in Mardan. He competes and cooperates with the dynamic Professor M. Nizamuddin of the University of Gujrat, which aims at becoming a hub for the social sciences in its geographical area and the possibly the country as a whole. Furthermore, a key role is also played by the modest organisation named the Council of Social Sciences (COSS) with some 400 institutional and individual members. I am glad that the HEC and the COSS seem to cooperate well now, and I hope that the researchers will refrain from making small groups critical of each other. They must pull together in one direction. I believe that it is also important that social sciences become more interdisciplinary, even to include academicians and practitioners from other fields, such as economics and engineering. I noted early this week that the HEC Chairman, Dr Javaid Laghari, underlined the importance of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, and that new ways of working will have to be found, and new ways of financing research as well. The HEC Chief proposed that a national innovation policy should be prepared and used, as a guideline for future expansion of activities in the social sciences and other fields. Older universities have special roles to play, such as the Karachi University, Punjab University, Quaid-i-Azam University, and several others. They can play leadership roles and they can also continue to be centres of excellence in various fields. Such centres can join hands in networks with other Pakistani universities, and they can also play a role in establishing links with sister universities abroad. They should not be leaders in the sense that they can instruct other institutions what they should do. Each institution must have autonomy and be responsible for its own quality assurance, but advice does not harm that too from colleagues and institutions with longer experience. In my home country of Norway, where we are very much concerned about having a flat structure, we have allowed some centres of excellence in specific subjects, and we have established the so-called national centres in fields where only one department or institute can have advanced expertise in the country, bearing in mind that Norway is a small country with only five million people. Well, comparing with Pakistan, it is not small in the higher education sub-sector. It has over 200,000 university students, perhaps, more than Pakistan. This is so because Norway is one of the worlds richest countries. The University of Gujrat, a young and up-coming institution with some 12,000 students, is giving particular attention to social sciences under the dynamic leadership of its Vice Chancellor. It has ambitions to become a hub in the field, and it considers establishing an integrated degree in social sciences, perhaps also with some units from other faculties. Furthermore, it explores the community college model, a common concept in many American institutions of higher learning, giving attention to skills training, especially such of local relevance, not only universal academic knowledge. In a developing country like Pakistan, applied sciences are indeed important. Since the social scientists do not have the status they should have, and are not in high demand, we must also evaluate from within, the skills and competence they have. Often, they do not have the analytical skills and the knowledge that is required by employers, and they risk being pushed aside by candidates from other fields. Let me also draw attention to the area studies concept in international studies. Such centres exist in Pakistan, too, but I dont think they are in vogue. Perhaps, their role and function should be revisited. The University of Gujrat is considering establishing a Norwegian or Scandinavian Centre, which would have several of the area studies characteristics. It could, indeed, play an important role in developing better social science methods, as Scandinavians are more concerned about qualitative methods and less about the quantitative, statistical methods. Besides, the Scandinavian countries economic success and their egalitarian development model, with a strong private economic sector, is certainly worth comparing with and borrowing from for the rest of the world, including Pakistan. The large number of Gujratis and other Pakistanis in Norway will make cooperation easier. Just now, the University of Gujrat has a Norwegian Visiting Professor Ingeborg Breines, who was earlier UNESCO Director in Pakistan. She teaches a course in human rights, culture of peace and tolerance, fields she used to coordinate at the UNESCO headquarters. The international decade for the youth that just ended was initiated when she was at the helm. Considering the dangerous world we live in, with the worlds superpower and the strongest military alliance, Nato, being present in our region, what could be more important? The worlds total military expenses, including nuclear weapons, are manifold of what it would take to comfortably reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Students should consider if this is right and try to make a better world than we who are getting old have made. We live in a time when extremism and terrorism have become relatively common expressions of anger and frustration. Nothing could be more important to study than peace issues for a social scientist taking a modern degree at a Pakistani university Without knowledge and understanding of human rights issues, peace resolution and prevention of conflict, a social scientist remains half-baked at best. The Gujrat Vice Chancellor and his Visiting Professor should be thanked by us all. I am sure that researchers, activists, strategists, experts and students from many fields will throng to the conference the university intends to hold in January next year. If all of Pakistans - some 70 universities approved by HEC, and some 50 others - could be innovative in the same way as Gujrat, then social sciences would flourish in the country, and the skills and knowledge of the candidates would be more clearly realised. The social sciences must contribute directly to the countrys development and peace. There is room to do more and better work, and I realise I too must pull up my socks. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad. He has served as United Nations specialist in the United States, as well as various countries in Africa and Asia. He has also spent a decade dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis and university education in Pakistan. Email: