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College Launches "Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions" Blog

October 23, 2017

The College of Social Sciences and Public Policy today launched a new blog, “Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions,” a forum for faculty and students of the college to talk about their research and teaching on the many challenges faced by contemporary society.

The blog is a space to investigate and dissect a range of “wicked problems” from the perspective of social science and public policy.

The title was inspired by the work of two social scientists in the 1970s, Horst Rittel and Mel Webber, who made a distinction between the “tame problems” of the hard sciences against the “wicked problems” that plague the social sciences, social and policy issues that cannot be solved through engineering, science, and funding alone.

Wicked problems are issues that are very difficult to solve because they are highly complex, with no readily apparent solution; intricately interconnected with other problems; entrenched in the political arena, culture and environment; and consequential, effecting in real time the lives of millions of everyday people.

Among the many wicked problems facing society today are climate change, poverty, tax policy, affordable health care, the opioid epidemic, social injustice, a culture of sexual harassment, urban sprawl, rising obesity rates, and nuclear weapons regulation.

“Our aim is to educate the reader, advance knowledge, and start a dialogue in the hopes of making the world’s problems a little less wicked and a little more tame,” said Tim Chapin, dean of the college. “Blog entries will present some of the outstanding work of the college on society’s most pressing issues, showcasing the scholarship, teaching, and community engagement flowing out of our programs.”

Blog posts will come from faculty and both graduate and undergraduate students in academic programs such as political science, sociology, economics, geography, urban and regional planning, public administration, public health, and emergency management, as well as from the college’s centers and institutes, among them the Center for Demography and Population Health, the LeRoy Collins Institute, the DeVoe L. Moore Center and the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy.

“We are really excited to provide a platform that highlights the diversity of our faculty and their research,” said Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Community Engagement Deana Rohlinger, who developed the blog idea and format. Rohlinger administers the blog with Administrative Assistant Maria Rodriguez, who designed the site’s pages.

“We see the blog as a way to engage our alumni and the community in a conversation about how social sciences inform everything from a state’s hurricane response to its legislation,” Rohlinger added.

Some of the initial posts on the blog include a piece on threats to maternal and reproductive health, written by Assistant Professor of Sociology Miranda Waggoner; an article about how Hurricane Irma highlighted the need for better aging services in Florida by Pepper Institute Director Anne Barrett and Pepper Center Director Larry Polivka; and an entry on food insecurity by political science major William Whitmire, a student in the college’s Social Science Scholars program.

The college encourages readers to comment on blog posts and share them widely on social media. “Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions” can be accessed here.