Historical Timeline

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has been in operation for more than ninety years. We present this timeline of organizational achievements and other highlights during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For more detailed accounts of the SSRC’s history, see our one-page history of the SSRC and Social Science Research Council, 1923–1998. The SSRC’s records are stored in the Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

SSRC: 90 Years of Impact

Early History

1923: Led by American Political Science Association president Charles E. Merriam, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) holds its inaugural meeting.

1924: The SSRC begins planning its first committees to study such topics as Interracial Relations, Scientific Aspects of Human Migration, and the Eighteenth Amendment.

1928: The Advisory Committee on Business Research, whose members include New York State Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, is founded, signaling the Council’s commitment to research on business practices, ethics, and industry relations.

1935: The SSRC establishes the Washington, DC–based Committee on Social Security. Its research is critical to the creation of the U.S. Social Security system.

1936: Ralph Bunche, Margaret Mead, and Grayson Kirk are among a cohort of scholars receiving fellowship support from the SSRC.

1937: The SSRC commissions 13 research memoranda to record and analyze the influence of the Great Depression on American society. Topics include crime, education, the family, internal migration, minorities, religion, consumption, health, and social work.

1942: With the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the National Research Council, the SSRC establishes the Committee on Latin American Studies. One of several new committees founded with the ACLS, it marks the beginning of the Council’s work focused on developing US expertise on world regions.

1945: George Gallup, Elmo Roper, and Frank Stanton are founding members of the Committee on Measurement of Opinion, Attitudes, and Consumer Wants, which examines problems of sampling, of biases introduced by interviewers, and of the use of panels of responses in repetitive surveys.

Post–World War II

1947: Robert B. Hall publishes his influential Area Studies: With Special Reference to Their Implications for Research in the Social Sciences, sponsored by the SSRC’s Exploratory Committee on World Area Research. It warns of scholarly ignorance about many areas of the world and recommends a sweeping educational initiative. Within two years, committees on Slavic and East European Studies and Southern Asia are established.

1947: The SSRC publishes The Reduction of Intergroup Tensions: A Survey of Research on Problems of Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Group Relations.

1949: Future Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets chairs the SSRC’s Committee on Economic Growth, which for two decades shaped basic theory and quantitative research methods in economics. Over the next few decades, future Nobel laureates in economics would participate in the Council’s work in this area: Herbert Simon, Lawrence Klein, James Tobin, George Stigler, Franco Modigliani, and George Akerlof. Much more recently, Paul Krugman was involved in developing our work on the privatization of risk.

1954: The SSRC establishes the Committee on Comparative Politics, chaired by Gabriel Almond. It sponsors pioneering work in the area of modernization and development in the wake of decolonization.

1956: The SSRC creates the Committee on National Security Policy Research; members include Henry Kissinger. Subsequent Council programs covering international affairs topics attract the participation of other prominent foreign policy figures and commentators including John Lewis Gaddis, Zbigniew Brzezinski, McGeorge Bundy, Robert Keohane, William Pfaff, Condoleezza Rice, and George Shultz.

1959: The SSRC, with the ACLS, forms committees on Contemporary China, the Near and Middle East, and African Studies.

1961: Responding to breakthroughs in scientific research, the SSRC founds a committee on Genetics and Behavior.

1963: The SSRC establishes the Committee on Sociolinguistics, which brings together specialists in linguistics, sociology, and anthropology to study the interaction of languages and societies. This eventually leads to the creation of the field of sociolinguistics.

1968: To improve scholarly relations with the Soviet Union, SSRC and ACLS jointly form the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). Following the sweeping changes some thirty years later, IREX established itself as an independent organization.

1968: Double-digit increases in global trade and advances in macroeconomic modeling influence the Committee on Economic Stability and Growth’s decision to launch Project LINK, a cooperative, international research activity aimed at understanding the economic relationships that bind countries into a global economy.

1972: Ping pong diplomacy and the U.S.-China agreement to develop mutually beneficial contacts lead the SSRC, ACLS, and National Academy of Sciences to found the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China, which becomes the leading U.S. structure for educational exchange with the PRC.

1972: As a result of U.S. government interest in addressing social problems that go beyond economic considerations, a social indicators movement emerges, and the SSRC opens a Washington office for its newly created Center for Coordination of Research on Social Indicators. For the next 11 years, the SSRC works with researchers and government agencies to lay a scientific foundation for research on social indicators and to bring this research into the social sciences.

1975: The SSRC launches inquiries into the learning process and giftedness. It recruits leading researchers such as Howard Gardner to help shape this work.

1976: Seeking to expand the study of child development, the SSRC convenes a committee on Social and Affective Development during Childhood. Related research is conducted by the Committee on Biosocial Perspectives on Parent Behavior and Offspring Development.

1983: The Indochina Studies Program begins to lay the groundwork for future scholarly communications with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The initiative reflects the SSRC’s longstanding ability to develop programs in regions that have difficult political relations with the United States. The SSRC would later initiate programs with Cuban and Iranian social scientists. Its programs on Cuba and Vietnam remain active today.

1985: The SSRC founds the Committee on International Peace and Security and extends the concept of security beyond military and technology issues to include nationalism and ethnic conflict, international ethics, the environment, and sustainable development. It also encourages collaboration among anthropologists, psychologists, and physicists.

1988: William Julius Wilson and Marta Tienda are named to the SSRC’s newly established Committee on Research on the Urban Underclass, whose seminars attract participants from federal agencies and congressional committees.

1989: The SSRC-Mellon Minority Fellowship Program is announced with the goals of increasing the number of African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans in core fields within the arts and sciences and of diversifying the faculties at colleges and universities.

Post–Cold War

1991: The SSRC establishes the Abe Fellowship Program, and an office in Tokyo, to provide fellowships to U.S. and Japanese researchers to study emerging global issues, problems in advanced industrial societies, and U.S.-Japan relations.

1994: The SSRC forms the Committee on International Migration, which sponsors, among many publications, the award-winning Handbook of International Migration: An American Experience.

1996: An integrating global economy and more fluid, complex relations between the world’s peoples, states, and regions lead the SSRC to restructure its area studies programs. Collaborative Research Networks and Regional Advisory Panels are named, creating multinational approaches to issues that are both global and local.

2001: In the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Council develops a website featuring commentaries from leading social scientists from around the world. The site attracts more than one million visitors and leads to the publication of two books.

2002: Recognizing the impact of the global HIV/AIDS health crisis, the Council announces an initiative to provide research and analysis on societies affected by the disease and contribute to the knowledge base of policymakers and the international donor community.