The March for Science is igniting a national dialogue around the critical role that science plays in our daily lives. While there has been much-deserved attention on the hard sciences, little has been said of the role of social science in people’s lives or public policy.
As a social worker with a master’s degree in my field, I have undergone rigorous training in research methodology and statistical analysis. I am an informed consumer of scientific research (even that outside my field) with cross-disciplinary experience in biology, psychology, and mathematics.
What does all this have to do with social work?
The most popular areas for American social workers are in clinical practice, specifically medical social work, public health, substance abuse treatment, and mental health fields. All of these areas of specialization are rooted in scientific research. Social workers must be well-versed in scientific principles to develop effective social service programs or evidence-based treatment plans for individual clients.
Those of us in macro fields must similarly be grounded in scientific knowledge.
As a community organizer, I advocate for policies that are evidence-based–an important task in a political environment that has always been dominated by reactionaries. Policies without a scientific foundation are destroying our environment, marginalizing subsets of the population based on moralistic principles, and destroying families through an overreliance on incarceration instead of treatment.
A grounding in science grants me a deeper understanding of the issues I address in my practice, whether its planting a community garden (and teaching others to do the same) or testifying before a government body on the negative health consequences of low-income residents exposed to environmental hazards.
The National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics identifies six core values that guide our practice:
- Social justice
- Dignity and worth of the person
- Importance of human relationships
While we may primarily think of ourselves as service providers or advocates, our profession is rooted in the scientific method. And to be a competent practitioner in any area of social work is to be an advocate for scientific evidence.