To Secure Knowledge Presented at the American Sociological Association

At the 2019 American Sociological Association (ASA) annual meeting in New York City, scholars gathered for a panel discussion of the Social Science Research Council’s To Secure Knowledge: Social Science Partnerships for the Common Good report and the necessary relationship between academy, industry, and government. SSRC president Alondra Nelson was joined by an esteemed panel, including Leslie Aiello, Paul DiMaggio, Cora Marrett, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, and Paolo Parigi. (See panelist bios below.)

In addition to a call for cross-sector collaboration, panelists delved into topics such as the mis- and disinformation media landscape, the value of scientists and social scientists in big data enterprise, research ethics and institutional review boards, as well as the role of universities, philanthropy, and convening institutions, such as the SSRC, in driving the expansion of digital expertise across disciplines.

Panelists also stressed the importance of skill-building within the academy, calling on departments and disciplines to resolve the mismatch between methodological training and the skills needed for critical research in today’s information ecosystem—including research done by scholars within the private sector. Paolo Parigi, lead trust scientist at Airbnb and former senior data scientist at Uber, argued that, “It’s important that sociologists understand the value that we can bring to [big tech companies]. There’s a lot of noise in the big data space that sociologists have the expertise to parse out and responsibly leverage.”

Considerable thought was also given to research accessibility and communications—particularly focused on reaching people outside of the traditional audiences engaged by academic journals and associations. Leslie Aiello, former president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and president emerita of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, said, “It’s our ethical responsibility as scientists and social scientists to make our research readily available for the public good. No one else is going to do it for us.”

The event concluded with questions from ASA attendees and a rich conversation with the panelists, all in support of building collaborative, modern solutions, like those outlined in the To Secure Knowledge report.


  • Leslie Aiello is immediate past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, president emerita of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and professor emerita at University College London.
  • Paul DiMaggio is professor of sociology at New York University.
  • Cora Marrett is professor emerita of Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, a former Board member of the SSRC, and a member of the To Secure Knowledge Task Force.
  • Cynthia Miller-Idriss is professor of education and sociology at American University.
  • Paolo Parigi is a currently lead trust scientist at Airbnb. Previously, he was senior data scientist at Uber and before moving into industry, Parigi was assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University.