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As a result, newly trained social scientists have access to a markedly lower number of full-time, tenure-track positions. Part-time teaching positions marked by low pay and few benefits, in which women and minority scholars are overrepresented, have become far more prominent, and expectations for faculty in these positions rarely emphasize research. At the same time, computational skills have never been so highly valued in the job market. Much of the knowledge economy depends on socially relevant data, and information technology firms seek out job candidates with such experience.

The nonprofit sector and government similarly look for employees with quantitative and other research skills, while design and marketing firms have increasingly identified the importance of social science methods such as ethnography. Despite the demand for computational abilities across a number of sectors, digital literacy of various kinds is sometimes peripheral to academic training in the social sciences.

Of course, training varies by discipline, and some social science fields, such as economics, provide these skills as core components of doctoral training.

But in some disciplines, digital literacy is not central to graduate work, and students must seek out ways to get such experience. But few graduate training programs prioritize exposure to these skills. In addition to a skills mismatch, another structural problem that has left research training out of sync with employment markets involves the way in which doctoral programs prepare students for career paths.


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A common complaint among graduate students and potential employers is that many doctoral programs mold students for only one career track—tenure-track faculty positions at research-intensive universities. One challenge in many disciplines is that departments lack information about the array of potential careers available to social science PhDs see box 5.

Greater collaboration between the private sector, academia, and professional organizations could improve the alignment of research training with the skills needed for careers in a range of relevant fields. The Task Force recognizes that the barriers for increasing workloads on already stressed graduate students and overworked advisors are not to be underestimated.

Nonetheless, improving mentoring at all stages in the research training pipeline can help integrate technical, teamwork, administrative, and translational expertise into graduate social science research programs. Many academic departments have already recognized the need to prepare doctoral students for nonacademic career tracks. However, implementing this goal has proven more challenging. One obstacle involves knowing where graduates eventually find employment in the first place. More effort is needed to more purposefully prepare students to enter career paths in and out of the academy, and this will entail greater engagement between higher education, professional associations, and prospective employers.

The To Secure Knowledge Task Force has emphasized the urgent need to create a new institutional infrastructure supporting social science research and the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration to meet this challenge. But too often, the role and significance of social science are not fully understood. We encourage social scientists to take up the challenge of communicating with research partners and the public at large about the rigorous processes of knowledge creation and the conditions under which social knowledge can be used in policy and practice.

We are confident that crafting a new research compact can help harness the current potential of the social sciences to improve human lives. The most central component of a new research compact involves forging collaborations across all parts of the institutional infrastructure that produce, use, and care about social knowledge. The Task Force recommends that the SSRC help create these new connections and partnerships by building on current experiments that show the potential to reinvent a robust and effective research compact.

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Notwithstanding persisting assaults on the conditions necessary to protect knowledge, we are convinced that key pathways and means to secure knowledge lie within our grasp. October Annotated outline produced and reviewed; presented at College and University Fund Conference.

November Initial presentation with Executive Directors of social science disciplinary associations. November and December Individual conversations with Task Force members. December 15, Full meeting of Task Force to discuss structure of report and writing assignments. April Subsequent presentation with Executive Directors of social science disciplinary associations.

June and July Comments on draft received from members and a wide range of invited reviewers. We would also like to thank the following colleagues for their thoughtful comments and guidance in the writing of this report:. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University.

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John H. Naomi Lamoreaux, Stanley B. Mary Bridges provided editorial support and Erika Olbey oversaw the design. The Task Force endorses and supports current efforts to protect the integrity of the census and the federal statistical system from political interference. For the purpose of this report, social knowledge refers to understandings of human behavior and social structures generated by professional researchers and scientists using advanced training, technical skills, and critical reasoning to push the frontiers of their fields and to promote the public good.

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The multiple challenges recently facing the role of scientists and the use of science in the policymaking process of the Environmental Protection Agency EPA now encompass social science. Our intention here is to encourage the collective leveraging of knowledge across sectors and for the good of the many rather than the few. While this report does not address it directly, the digital age profoundly affects access to research results and the need to archive data securely and accessibility.

Important experiments in open access are underway, although a significant amount of scholarship—and likely an even higher percentage of publications in the most selective journals—remains behind paywalls and is not available or affordable to many scholars, as well as practitioners and the general public. Archival and preservation needs are too often neglected.

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What is worth saving for future generations, and how to do it? A sixteenth-century book can still be taken down from the shelf of a library and read without further ado whereas a CD has a physical lifetime of a mere thirty years. Digitization requires scientific archiving to be reinvented, both conceptually and materially. Data on how the percentages may have shifted between public and private spending for social science research specifically is not available. According to NSF data, federal funding for social science was slightly less in in current dollars as compared to the late s.

Consider the emphasis the Council on Competitiveness places on the education of citizens in a changing world. There are at least another hundred or so statistical offices scattered across the government. Indeed, the statistical system of the US government is itself a diverse institutional ecology. There are also important differences in corporate versus academic approaches to data. Digital data from the commercial sector tends to be thin on theory and rich in data. Social science is traditionally the inverse: theory rich and data poor.

Further, in terms of analytical techniques, the technology sector boasts a range of computational innovations focused on prediction of social behavior and interaction.

By contrast, social science historically focuses on causal mechanisms and interpretive understanding. On the latter point, see Jake M. The Task Force acknowledges the prescient calls in this direction made by scholars in the past decade. The permanence of data is also an issue. Does informed consent granted today imply consent for unanticipated future uses of the data? These changes, informed by collaborative discussions between academic researchers and the federal government, appear to introduce more flexibility in the ways that diverse kinds of social science research practice are evaluated in terms of compliance.

This phenomenon has the potential to cause serious damage when findings are acted upon and to public trust in the research enterprise.

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Lisa A. Decreased support for public higher education has a range of negative implications for the social science labor market. For example, research shows that multifaceted teams are the most successful teams across sectors, but contracting budgets at the institutions that educate the largest and most diverse student populations risk depriving social science of this intellectual talent. See Scott E. A recent National Academies report shows that, in , just under 50 percent of social science PhD holders worked in educational institutions mostly higher education , 32 percent in the for-profit sector, and 10 percent at nonprofits.

A smaller percentage of social science PhDs are employed in for-profit businesses than doctorate holders in other STEM fields, but a higher percentage of social scientists are self-employed or work for nonprofits. Lab-based disciplines such as psychology do provide elements of these kinds of experiences, but for the most part doctoral work in the social sciences is a solitary endeavor in terms of dissertation research and writing. Schwandt, and Miron L. Straf, eds. To Secure Knowledge.