The Social Science Research Council, a nonpartisan nonprofit founded in 1923 by seven professional associations in the social and behavioral sciences, mobilizes policy-relevant social and behavioral science for the public good.

In December 1921 the American Political Science Association appointed a committee chaired by Charles E. Merriam of the University of Chicago to consider the state of policy-relevant social and behavioral science. The committee’s first report identified a number of challenges to producing credible and reliable social and behavioral science that could guide public policy:

  • “Lack of comprehensive collections of data”
  • “Tendency toward race, class, nationalistic bias in the interpretation of data available”
  • “Lack of sufficiently precise standards of measurement”
  • “The difficulty of isolating…phenomena sufficiently to determine precisely the causal relations between them”
  • The absence of what in natural science is called the controlled experiment” 

To tackle these challenges, the committee recommended the formation of a “Social Science Research Council” consisting of representatives from multiple disciplinary associations. The Council would advance “the development of scientific methods in the social sciences” by mobilizing social and behavioral scientists to search for solutions to important societal problems.

“…the best way to promote the growth of the social sciences is to participate in formulating and studying specific problems which are now in a stage to be worked on effectively.”

(Wesley Clair Mitchell, second president of the Social Science Research Council)

The proposed Social Science Research Council received immediate support from the American Economic Association, American Political Science Association, American Sociological Association, and American Statistical Association. These associations sent representatives to the first meetings of the Council in 1923. In 1925, representatives from the American Anthropological Association, American Historical Association, and American Psychological Association joined the Council.

“…the histories of the social sciences which will be published when our grandchildren are growing gray will record that in the late 1920’s a remarkable development took place in these fields in the United States of America.”

(Wesley Clair Mitchell, second president of the Social Science Research Council)

For 100 years the Social Science Research Council has mobilized the research, policy, and philanthropic communities in the search for workable solutions to pressing societal challenges. We have learned much about policies that can support shared peace and prosperity, but there is still much that we do not know.

Today, new tools and methods offer new opportunities for policy-relevant and socially useful social and behavioral science. The Council is uniquely positioned to unite the research, policy, and philanthropic communities in the search for interventions and policies that can better support human well-being on a global scale. As the Council enters a new century, this work is more important than ever.

Equity and Inclusion

At the Social Science Research Council, diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values, and are central to our work to advance social and behavioral science aimed at improving human well-being around the world.

The diversity of the Council’s staff, Board, and networks—including background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and much more—strengthens the organization and our work.

The Social Science Research Council is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of our organization and work. Our programs support efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the social and behavioral sciences, provide research funding to scholars in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and mobilize the research, philanthropic, and policy communities in the search for interventions that increase equity and inclusion in societies around the globe. These efforts are emblematic of the organization’s fundamental commitment to inclusiveness.