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Joya Misra, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, has been appointed Director of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) in the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), for a three-year term effective September 1, 2019. Misra succeeds Laurel Smith-Doerr, who has served as Director of ISSR since 2012, building it into a vibrant center for promoting excellence in social science research. Join us in congratulating them for their leadership and service to excellence in the social sciences across UMass.

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On February 8, 2019, John N. Parker facilitated the first UMass ADVANCE Research Collaboration workshop with an engaging talk on how collaboration and equity leads to better science. Parker is Program Officer for the Science, Technology and Society and Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM programs at the National Science Foundation. He is also Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and Senior Fellow, Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

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On February 21 2019, a full house packed the ISSR lab to explore research on how gender affects the conduct of research and professional life more broadly for social scientists. This article summarizes the discussion highlights, and shares valuable resources for those interested in the topic. This seminar was the second in our Social Science and Social Location series which focuses on the ‘positionality’ of researchers, asking how our social location informs the way in which we go about our scholarly lives, the questions we ask, the approaches we take to inquiry, and the way that we conduct our scholarship more broadly.

Panelists in seminar: Sonia Atalay, Linda Tropp, Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Kiran Asher

A full house packed the ISSR lab for the first event in ISSR’s seminar series on Social Science and Social Location. The central question of this panel was “How does where we stand affect what we see, and what we can know as scholars?” Responses came in the form of four thought-provoking expositions on the politics of creating social science that reflects non-traditional academic origins, asks questions that the mainstream is not asking, honors histories and standpoints that have traditionally been excluded from scientific discourses, and claims a vital and legitimate – if fiercely challenged – place in the scientific enterprise. 

How do longstanding theories of social interaction hold up when communication shifts from in-person to online interaction? And how can novel research methods, applied by collaborative teams of social scientists and computer scientists to new forms of online data, help us re-imagine the mechanisms driving social life?

On 17 October, David Snow, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine engaged a packed house at the ISSR lab. Snow lectured on the relationship between right-wing populism and the construction of superfluous populations, drawing from his recent chapter on the topic in Mackert et al’s edited volume Populism and the Crisis of Democracy (Routledge, 2018).

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An interdisciplinary UMass team led by ISSR Director Laurel Smith-Doerr (PI) and Co-PIs Enobong (Anna) Branch, Shlomo Zilberstein, Henry Renski, and Shannon Roberts has received a National Science Foundation conference grant funded under one of the NSF Ten Big Ideas—the Future of Work at Human-Technology Frontiers (HTF). On April 5-6th, the Institute for Social Science Research convened renowned social scientists, computer scientists, engineers and influential professionals from across the U.S. for the second of three meetings funded by this grant, to consider the question of racial equity in how scholars understand emerging technologies and the workplace.

Jennifer Lundquist

In early March, ISSR held its first grants development panel entitled “Grants and Your Research Trajectory,” moderated by Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development, Jennifer Lundquist and featuring panelists Mari Castañeda, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication and Larry King, a new Professor in the Department of Economics. The panel explored a range of grantmaking experiences across the social and behavioral sciences. Faculty and audience participants shared their experiences and strategies for including grant making and project stewardship in their career trajectories. This panel was designed to raise awareness of new capabilities within ISSR to assist faculty in building successful research proposals strategizing interdisciplinary grants and identifying prospective funders. 

The newly restored Old Chapel crackled with energy on the morning of November 30, as an over-capacity crowd gathered to hear activist Loretta Ross and public scholar Rickie Solinger reflect on their decades-long collaboration to advance the movement for reproductive justice. The duo offered a frank discussion – punctuated by humor and warmth – about their commitment to work through what might easily have become deep-seated barriers to solidarity between a white historian of the struggle and the Black organizer who founded SisterSong. For the scholar-activist team, authenticity, vulnerability, humbleness and the power to imagine alliances for social justice across racial, class, gender and even international boundaries are all vital to sustaining a productive alliance.

In his December 7 seminar on what he termed “Academia’s crisis of relevance” at the Institute for Social Science Research, Professor Andrew Hoffman (University of Michigan) promised to be provocative, in order to push scientists outside of their comfort zones, and scientific institutions into faster change. Hoffman, who earned his BA in chemical engineering from UMass Amherst and his PhD in management/civil & environmental engineering from MIT, quickly delivered on that promise, with a rapid-fire review of studies on the “abysmal state” of public perceptions of science.

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