Throughout history, social phenomena have played a part in the evolution of all human societies. These phenomena may occur for very specific reasons or they may emerge quite haphazardly. They may be multi-dimensional, or focused on a single aspect. Nor are social phenomena limited to any particular periods of time; they can occur at any time and can evolve with dramatic speed. Recently the whole world has witnessed the emergence of a number of social phenomena in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. Of course, there are as many ways of studying such phenomena as there are of postulating their effects and significance; it is incumbent on universities and research centres to study them systematically and in-depth, both their present situation and the implications for the future.
Universities represent one of the major pillars of a contemporary society; they are centres for enlightening and training citizens to the highest levels in a wide range of specializations through instruction, research and community service. Universities have a duty to study social phenomena and, in so doing, to strike a fine balance between scientific aspiration and the various needs of the society. No university can play its proper role in studying social phenomena without fostering interaction between individuals and their environment. This is because a university both affects and is affected by the wider contemporary social context and the social phenomena that make up that context. This strong link between the university and society impels academics to study whatever diverse social phenomena are witnessed in the society.
Universities have three main missions: education, research and community service. There is no doubt that today more attention is being given by universities and society to the last two missions, for the valuable role universities play in identifying and solving many problems in society has become more evident and profitable. Indeed, universities are now seen as one of the important pillars any society depends on for progress across a great many spheres. In addition, universities have the role of educating societies, both culturally and morally, to face whatever may threaten their values and identity.
In recognition of these facts, it is hoped that the proposed forthcoming international conference organized by Sultan Qaboos University at its College of Arts and Social Sciences will provide a forum for researchers and scholars from the Arab world and beyond to examine these contemporary phenomena and explore how they might best be dealt with.