The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Social Science Matters

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is home to a broad range of approaches to social science, all of which we celebrate, from purely theoretical and interpretive research to all manner of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. One of our priorities is to ensure that this exciting social science research connects with the public while showing the relevance of the social sciences to everyday lives and policy.

The Social Science Matters series showcases the contributions of various social science disciplines to pressing current societal issues. The series demonstrates the cross-disciplinary connections within and beyond the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and has covered topics such as inequality and resistance in past iterations.

Submit A Speaker

Losing Trust, Taking Action

Tuesday, March 2, at 4:00 pm (EST)

This event was part one of the two-part series with Ethan Zuckerman, How to Fix Social Media... and Civic Life, and Everything Else, co-presented by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Information and Computer Sciences.

Speaker: Ethan Zuckerman.

Moderator: Jane Fountain, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy & Director of the National Center for Digital Government

Many advanced democracies are suffering from a crisis in trust: most citizens don't trust their governments to do the right thing. This is not just a crisis of confidence in government - citizens mistrust major institutions from the media to the health care system. This creates a series of challenges, from resistance to public health orders to a broad feeling of helplessness and inability to influence politics and the direction of society. Fortunately, there are strategies for social change that work even when trust in institutions is very low, which include using less-familiar levers of social change. This talk explores people making change from within and outside of institutions using strategies that change public opinion and technical architectures as well as laws. 

American Health Policy in 2020: A Pivotal Year for Change?

October 15, 2020

This event was presented by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences as part of the Social Science Matters Series


Airín Martínez, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health and Health Sciences

Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics & Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI)

Manasvini Singh, Assistant Professor of Resource Economics


Jennifer Lundquist, Senior Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development, Professor of Sociology

Even before the pandemic, healthcare was commonly listed by Americans as one of the most pressing concerns for US policy reform. After the last six months of COVID-19 and with the upcoming November election, the topic is now seen as critical among the American public. Some of the topics discussed include healthcare costs, Disparities in quality of care and access, supply chain bottlenecks and shortages, proposed changes to healthcare policies, and additional implications from COVID-19


How to Submit a Speaker or Event Suggestion

SBS sometimes co-sponsors external speaker events with departments on rotating themes. The preferred Social Science Matter theme for this year is “COVID: A Retrospective?” This series highlights the role of social science in amplifying and understanding societal and public health dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will take stock of lessons learned, suggest innovations, and provide ideas and predictions for a post-COVID future.

We welcome suggestions from SBS faculty members for next year’s series. Suggestions are reviewed by the SBS Leadership Council and SBS Chairs. Your nomination can be for a specific speaker or for a panel featuring 2-3 speakers on a particular topic to be debated. Criteria for successful submission are as follows:

  1. The speaker should be a high-profile, scholarly social scientist who is very well known across disciplines.
  2. The proposed event should draw a large multi-disciplinary audience, also attracting students and community members.  
  3. Relevance and importance of speaker/topic
  4. Ability to articulate the contributions of social science in an engaging way
  5. The speaker or event will be co-hosted across at least two SBS departments

Submit A Speaker