In the latest response to “Can Social Science Matter?,” Ron Haskins argues that social science should tackle heightened demands for accountability by not overpromising on impact while also trumpeting existing work that simultaneously deepens social understanding and contributes to addressing public problems. Haskins highlights two relatively recent and influential approaches that have demonstrated the capacity to bridge the purposes of “basic” and “applied” research—the mining of large scale administrative data and the use of randomized controlled trials to test the effectiveness of a range of social programs.
In his response to Kenneth Prewitt’s “Can Social Science Matter?” Michael Feuer discusses rationales for accountability systems for social science and problems of implementing them, especially through the use of (sometimes dubious) metrics in a highly-politicized climate for science funding. Improved accountability for science requires, according to Feuer, a scientific approach to the study of accountability.
Wolfgang Rohe’s response to Prewitt’s “Can Social Science Matter?” affirms that the current moment for social science research is one in which society demands less autonomy and more accountability for knowledge production. Rohe concurs with Prewitt’s account of how this shift happened, and adds that the sheer scale of the research enterprise, and genuine concerns with research quality, are further components of new pressures on scholarship. Rohe concludes that social scientists must both maintain (and improve upon) the process for peer judgments of quality while using their tools as social scientists to develop criteria for evaluating the broader social influence and use of their research.
With the civil war in Colombia hopefully nearing a settlement, attention is turning to creating new economic opportunities, not least for demobilized combatants. The mining industry may play a key role here, and Renata Segura explains why through discussing the results of the SSRC’s Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum's (CPPF) recent work with the Working Group on Mining in Colombia (GDIAM). The working group report, Proposals for a Shared Vision on Mining in Colombia, is based on intense deliberations with all affected actors and emphasizes the opportunity to proactively shape the development of an inclusive, resilient, and competitive mining industry.
Kenneth Prewitt, former SSRC president, traces the history of the debates on the accountability of American social science to those who fund and use it. As demands for accountability are currently on the rise, and as expectations for its demonstration grow, Prewitt outlines key dimensions of a strategy for maintaining the autonomy of social science research and using the insights of social science to better understand its own impact.
Colleagues from the SSRC’s Measure of America program discuss how research on human well-being can shape policies to enhance it. Using the program’s in-depth research in Sonoma County, California, as a case study, the authors show how their findings of surprising disparities can effect change through local partnerships and strategies to communicate results in ways that resonate with a wide range of community members.