Overview

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Social Science Research Council?

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is an independent, nonprofit international organization founded in 1923.

What is the Council's mission?

The SSRC nurtures new generations of social scientists, fosters innovative research, and mobilizes necessary knowledge on important public issues. Read our full mission statement.

How does the Council accomplish its work?

The SSRC pursues its mission by working with practitioners, policymakers, and academic researchers in the social sciences, related professions, and the humanities and natural sciences. With partners around the world, we build interdisciplinary and international networks, link research to practice and policy, strengthen individual and institutional capacities for learning, and enhance public access to information. We award fellowships and grants, convene workshops and conferences, conduct research and participate in research consortia, sponsor scholarly exchanges, and produce print and online publications.

What are some of the issues the Council works on?

The SSRC’s agenda, in terms of topics and activities, is not static, and we engage new areas of work when social science, in alliance with other fields, has an important contribution to make to understanding and problem solving. In recent years, we have focused on conflict and peacebuilding, the public sphere, knowledge and learning, and strengthening global social science. Current areas also include deepening the understanding of religion and analyzing the United States from a human development perspective. Major new initiatives are under development on the anxieties of democracy, cities, digital culture, and exploring “scholarly borderlands,” which will bring social scientists in closer collaboration with both natural scientists and humanists. We also offer fellowships for researchers doing promising work in the social sciences and related disciplines. Our largest fellowship program, the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF), funds graduate students for research across the globe.

Why is the Council's work important?

The SSRC is guided by the belief that justice, prosperity, and democracy all require better understanding of complex social, cultural, economic, and political processes and committed to the idea that social science can produce necessary knowledge—necessary for citizens to understand their societies and necessary for policymakers to decide on crucial questions.

Does the Council cover all the social sciences?

The Council is defined not by its work on any one topic, nor by any one specific disciplinary combination, nor has it ever represented all of social science. Rather, our distinctive niche is to innovate and incubate, to identify emergent lines of research that will be enhanced by interdisciplinary ties, and to help scattered researchers achieve critical mass in the creation of a self-sustaining new field.

What are some of the Council's most significant accomplishments?

The Council has provided well over 10,000 fellowships to graduate students and young researchers around the world since our inception in 1923. Our networks and committees have pioneered new approaches to understanding society and processes of social, cultural, economic, and political change and have profoundly influenced many fields of social inquiry, from pioneering work on business cycles in the 1920s to the emergence of security studies in the 1980s and 1990s to initiatives on the resurgence of religion and the privatization of risk in the new millennium. Read more about our history.

Among the fields of research Council-led initiatives have helped to create are comparative politics, area studies, global security, and human development and the life course. We have played a central role in developing quantitative methods of social science research, such as economic indicators and scientific sampling.

The SSRC's interdisciplinary collaborations have occasionally given birth to new disciplines. In the 1960s, for example, we brought together specialists in linguistics, sociology, and anthropology to study the interactions of languages and societies, which led to the emergence of sociolinguistics. More recently, the SSRC has played a critical role in establishing the field of migration studies.

How much of the Council's work is international in focus?

At its founding, the SSRC was mostly American in its organization and outlook. But our work eventually expanded to include international concerns. From the 1960s onward, we became known for our work encouraging the study of other regions of the world and for our commitment to fostering the development of the social sciences in those regions by offering fellowships and other programs for foreign researchers. Today we are a leading force in international social science, and around twenty percent of our funding comes from overseas. Work requiring "context-specific" or "place-based" knowledge typically represents around sixty percent of program activity in any given year. Additionally, the Council has in-house expertise on Africa, Cuba, China, Eurasia, Haiti, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East, North Korea, Russia, and Vietnam. Likewise, our Board of Directors includes experts on Africa (Mamadou Diouf, Thandika Mkandawire, and Michael J. Watts); the former Soviet Union countries (Michael Kennedy); Mexico (Claudio Lomnitz); and Latin America and Asia (Barbara Stallings).

Where does the Council operate?

The SSRC maintains a headquarters in New York City and offices in China, Egypt, Japan, and Vietnam. We can also call on networks of researchers throughout Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

How is the Council structured?

The SSRC is governed by a Board of Directors made up of social scientists and practitioners from a broad range of disciplines and institutions. The Board elects the SSRC's president and regularly reviews its intellectual program. An executive committee of the Board oversees financial and operational aspects.

How big is the Council?

The SSRC's work is directed by the president and a staff of more than sixty. We are currently operating with an annual budget of $23.8 million.

How is the Council's work financed?

The SSRC's work is made possible by grants from private and public institutions, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the United Nations, as well as some foreign governments. Agencies of the US government also provide support, especially the Department of State and the National Science Foundation. We have approximately seventy active grants at any given time. The Council also invites gifts and donations from individuals. Donate to our endowment campaign.

Funding is not accepted from any source that would compromise the independence of the Council's scholars or our international stature as an open forum of exchange.

SSRC headquarters in Brooklyn, NY