My attention was drawn to this article by the head of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Some commentators have been highly sceptical, pointing out the massive recent failures of the queen of quantitative social science, economics, for example.
My own initial reaction is that whilst King’s claims may be somewhat overblown, and they do minimise the problems, both within social sciences and between social scientists and policy makers, they do point to some very interesting developments and possibilities in the development of social sciences. I am wondering what others think? Comments welcome!
Restructuring the Social Sciences
Gary King* January 1, 2013
The social sciences are undergoing a dramatic transformation from studying problems to solving them; from making due with a small number of sparse data sets to analyzing increasing quantities of diverse, highly informative data; from isolated scholars toiling away on their own to larger scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary, lab-style research teams; and from a purely academic pursuit to having a major impact on the world. To facilitate these important developments, universities, funding agencies, and governments need to shore up and adapt the infrastructure that supports social science research. We discuss some of these developments here, as well as a new type of organization we created at Harvard to help encourage them — the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences. An increasing number of universities are beginning efforts to respond with similar institutions. This paper provides some suggestions for how individual universities might respond and how we might work together to advance social science more generally.