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That foundation needs a redesign in order for the social sciences to continue helping our communities address problems ranging from income inequality to education reform.To build a better future, we identify five areas of action: Funding, Data, Ethics, Research Quality, and Research Training.
Social science also provides methods for solving problems—from organ donor matching systems to internet search algorithms.5 If this promise is to be secured, new partnerships must be crafted among academics, governments, corporate leaders, philanthropic organizations, and NGOs.
The challenge of building a new research compact among these actors lies at the center of this report and its recommendations.
With the right realignments, the security of social knowledge lies within our reach.
Two recent events have highlighted the challenges facing the social sciences.
Though this report focuses principally on the United States, the issues it addresses resonate in other parts of the world as well.
The Task Force consulted many constituencies and conducted intensive internal discussions over the course of eighteen months (see the appendix regarding the consultation process).For decades, partnerships among these institutions supported principles at the core of the research enterprise—openness, accessibility, transparency, and quality.Central too was the notion that research findings are both authoritative and provisional: research remains open to challenge from potentially better ideas and encourages debate when new evidence and arguments arise.In addition, today’s social scientists face unprecedented demands for accountability, speedy publication, and generation of novel results.These pressures have emerged from the fragmented institutional foundation that undergirds research.Its goal is to impel conversation and action, including creative experimentation, by leaders and organizations concerned with the future of social knowledge.These include academic and administrative leaders in higher education, as well as colleagues in government, business, the nonprofit world, and the media.And we have generated recommendations to address these issues.Our core finding focuses on the urgent need for new partnerships and collaborations among several key players: the federal government, academic institutions, donor organizations, and the private sector.It chronicles changes to the post–World War II institutional framework that helped launch today’s social science, explores the current research ecosystem and how it has been destabilized, and proceeds to identify five key areas for thoughtful intervention: The United States possesses a vibrant system for social science research.Built during the second half the twentieth century, it connects universities, government institutions, firms, and foundations.