I write this message on the occasion of the Sixth International Research Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS-2018) organized by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura, with much admiration and appreciation of the organizers for their generous invitation to me to be the conference’s Guest of Honor. After years of isolation from the rest of the academic world due to the country’s civil war, Sri Lankan universities have now entered into a new era where the academics seek and engage in active research corporation and collaboration with both the international academic communities in their respective fields and the private sector stakeholders.
In this regard, the University of Sri Jayawardenapura leads the way in showcasing this new vigor by organizing IRCHSS for the sixth time this year under a timely theme: Crossroads where Humanities meets Social Sciences. As I see it, this timely theme carries the message of the need for establishing more and more interdisciplinary research and study programmes within the Sri Lankan university system. In the past decade, many modern universities around the globe increased their world rankings partly due to their introduction of more and more new interdisciplinary study programmes and research projects over the old-fashioned disciplinary ones, catering to the high demand for finding sustainable solutions to complex global and local human and social issues and problems. The real-world research problems that scientists address rarely arise within orderly disciplinary categories and neither do their solutions. Introducing and promoting interdisciplinary studies is not an easy task for it requires appreciation of diversity, critical thinking skills, negotiating conflicts, and wisdom for how to apply knowledge to solve complex problems. Even though integration of ideas, data and information, methods, tools, concepts, and theories from several disciplines to solve complex questions and issues is the primary aim of interdisciplinarity, as a preliminary but meaningful step, it requires generating a dialogue and interaction among disciplinarians to work together for the sake of finding the truth. The University of Sri Jayawardenapura has already in the process of promoting this dialogue for it has united many disciplines of humanities and social sciences under one faculty, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am certain this year’s IRCHSS will be a further step in this direction for it prepares platform for both the disciplinary specialists and the interdisciplinarians, both local and international, to have a fruitful dialogue not only for collaborating on problem-based research projectsto meet the country’s demand for addressinggrowing complex human and social ills but also for developing new interdisciplinary study programmes to train a new generation of interdisciplinarians. I wish IRCHSS-2018 great success.
A. Somaratne, PhD (Northwestern, USA)
Centre of Buddhist Studies
The University of Hong Kong
10 July 2018