Women led nations haven't fared much better in pandemic + Social science lacking bite

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Countries led by women haven't fared significantly better in the COVID-19 pandemic
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/...123020.php

Blurb: Countries led by women have not fared significantly better in the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men -- it may be just our Western media bias that makes us think they have!

ABSTRACT: In this paper we explore whether countries led by women have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men. Media and public health officials have lauded the perceived gender-related influence on policies and strategies for reducing the deleterious effects of the pandemic. We examine this proposition by analyzing COVID-19-related deaths globally across countries led by men and women. While we find some limited support for lower reported fatality rates in countries led by women, they are not statistically significant. Country cultural values offer more substantive explanation for COVID-19 outcomes. We offer several potential explanations for the pervasive perception that countries led by women have fared better during the pandemic, including data selection bias and Western media bias that amplified the successes of women leaders in OECD countries. (MORE)


Why Does Social Science Not Bite?
https://www.socialsciencespace.com/2021/...-not-bite/

EXCERPTS: . . . I would like to suggest that part of the reason why the social sciences (with possible exception of economics) are so impotent is because they typically hold on to a limited view of science and how it has its impact. I see my own discipline of psychology as probably the worst offender in this regard.

I was schooled in psychology at the University of Liverpool in what was then known as ‘Experimental Psychology.’ There was a declared ideology that psychology was a science like any ‘hard science,’ notably physics, in which controlled experimentation was the only sure basis for testing hypotheses. This was claimed to allow causal mechanisms to be identified, thereby developing theories from carefully argued postulates. Although some degree of survey research and the rather metaphorically named ‘field’ experiments were acceptable, they were all regarded as less ‘scientific’ than a double-blind, laboratory-controlled experiment. Case studies were dismissed as merely ‘anecdotal,’ although possibly of use in generating hypotheses. Reviewers of research proposals were even known to dismiss anything that included questionnaire surveys.

[...] The U.K. Academy of Social Sciences has a declared mission to ‘make the case for’ the social sciences. The intention is to raise an awareness of the significance of the social sciences for policy and practice, with a consequent increasing support for the social sciences politically and financially. There is therefore the crucial question of what can be learnt from dealing with the challenge of COVID-19 that would have made the case more substantially?

[...] Of course, it has to be admitted that policy makers and politicians do not follow the guidelines from the medical and scientific experts. Those with the power to make the crucial decisions have to weigh a range of possibilities and probable consequences. ‘The Science,’ as British politicians are keen to refer to the range of intricate medical and scientific findings, is only one part of their consideration. As is also now legend, in the U.S., the Supreme Commander denied that The Virus should be taken seriously, as he’s done for climate change and other very obvious phenomena, notably an election loss.

Against this background how can the much vaguer, more disputed, and – let’s face it – more poorly funded, social sciences be expected to have any influence? I would like to suggest that one answer to this is for the engagement with a much richer understanding of what science is and how it can be understood.

This means avoiding scientism. That is the quasi-religious following of rituals in the name of science rather than clear-sighted application of appropriate scientific methods. In psychology a powerful illustration of this is the prevalence of ‘evolutionary’ explanations of behavior. These parodies of Kipling’s ‘just-so’ stories seek to frame every aspect of human propensities in pseudo-Darwinian accounts of the likely evolutionary benefits of those aspects of being human. These explanations, whether it be of kindness, rape, arson, or music, or a host of other features of people, are claimed as having roots in the distant past of early hominids. These speculations are given the status of scientific theories without any possibility of demonstrating their validity, or even an elementary indication of some genetic support for these claims. Changes in how we deal with and experience the world derive from social and cultural processes that cannot be reduced to coping with the challenges of surviving on the Serengeti.

There are many other examples of social science accounts that are selected to look scientific rather than doing any actual scientific work. They can be dressing up everyday understanding in opaque terminology, or putting faith in one-off studies that have never been replicated. Or fully understood. The challenge is to find ways of communicating findings and their implications which are not necessarily obvious. This is a challenge, in part, because everyone has to make some sort of sense of their interactions with others. How can another person claim some special insight that goes against what non-specialists may take for granted?

I learnt about this challenge the hard way when attempting to provide consultancy to organizations that wish to take action on the basis of my advice. I found that as much as they admired statistics and some background number crunching, what caused them to take notice of what I was advocating was a well-presented case-study illustrating the process. For example, no matter how sophisticated the model I developed of human actions when caught in a building on fire, backed by examination of many incidents, what made policy makers take notice was a graphic account of one particular event that illustrated the model. Even better if they could relate that directly to their own experience. Journalists are very aware of this phenomenon... (MORE - details)
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