Social Science Research- A future opportunity for the Millenials

Shrutika Sabarwal is a reputed researcher who aspires to make a change by working with governments and influencing welfare policies with the help of social science research. She has published several research articles, which have been cited in many publications and books. Shrutika was raised in Delhi and graduated from Johns Hopkins University, USA. Inspired by the positive outcomes of her work and realizing the need for reforms, Shrutika is a strong advocate of her field.

 Tell us about yourself and your education. How did you choose this career path? 

My education and career path were inspired by many factors, but mainly by my family. My father was an officer of the Indian Police Services (IPS) and both my sisters were also studying or working in the field of international development, so that largely impacted my upbringing and motivation to pursue a career in social welfare. 

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Delhi University, a diploma in Biostatistics and Data Management from the Indian Institute of Public Health, and Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.  

What do you hope to accomplish as a social science researcher?

As a social science researcher, I hope to be able to address the challenges our country faces by influencing government policy for the welfare of the population, through research and data. There are many issues facing India and several other countries in this world, a few of which are very close to my heart. There is extreme poverty, millions of people don’t have access to basic clean drinking-water, a large majority of women experience physical and sexual violence, and only a portion of girls are in school. I aspire to address these challenges through my work. 

Why do you think this is a good future opportunity for the millennials? 

Social science research is a very fulfilling and lucrative opportunity for those interested in areas focusing on the welfare of the society. Given the economic and social issues facing India right now, a lot of people and organizations internationally are providing financial aid to conduct research that can contribute to useful policy outcomes. With an urgent need for reforms in fields like education, healthcare, nutrition, and women and child health, it is a good time for the millennials to be a part of a transformational journey.

What do you judge to be your major successes or accomplishments in your field? How do you plan on achieving them?

I aspire to influence government policy-making through scientific evidence, so when we provide evidence to governments through our research, and they use that evidence to design policies for the benefit of the population, I count that as an accomplishment. There have been several instances where I have worked closely with government officials to help them understand, implement, and use research to inform their policy in fields related to social welfare. I got these opportunities by working in critical roles at reputed organizations such as Population Council and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) (the co-founders of J-PAL won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty).

I have worked on several research studies with funding awards from national and international organizations that have helped expand research in fields such as gender-based violence, HIV, reproductive health, and nutrition. I have also published results from several of these research studies in journal articles that have been widely cited by other researchers and writers. 

What are the major challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them? 

As a young researcher, the biggest challenge is identifying the specific topics and areas of work you are interested in and feel passionate about. There may be several things you want to work on and change, but it is important to take it one step at a time, learn the profession, and then start building on your interest areas. 

Can you guide us on how to pursue a career in this field?

Motivation is key, just like in any other profession, and having a strong educational background will lay a solid foundation. One path, which I followed, is pursuing higher education in Economics, Mathematics or Statistics to develop a strong base, and branching off into public policy, public health or other development related fields, including Economics. 

I would really encourage students to look into this career path. It’s a niche area and expanding rapidly in our country.