Courtesy of Jason Koski / Cornell University

Senior associate dean of social sciences Melissa Ferguson and associate vice provost for the social sciences Christopher Wildeman will co-chair the faculty implementation committee.

April 18, 2019

New Center for Social Sciences to Boost Interdisciplinary Research

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On March 28, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced the University’s new Center for Social Sciences, intended to improve the University’s research and collaboration efforts among social science disciplines.

The establishment of the center is the result of over three years of discussion between faculty and administration, who aimed to “enhance the university’s excellence in the social sciences over the next 10 to 15 years,” according to the Cornell Chronicle, a University-run publication.

The new center will “foster research collaborations that provide greater visibility and impact” and “serve as the lynchpin between the social sciences and other disciplines including the humanities and life sciences,” Kotlikoff told The Sun in a statement.

The Institute for Social Science, a predecessor to the newly-christened center, was founded 15 years ago and will continue its mission of providing seed grants and a faculty fellows program.
Comparatively, the Center for Social Sciences “will operate on a larger scale,” Kotlikoff said.

An faculty implementation committee was formed to lead the center in accomplishing two goals: creating a system that integrates similar academic areas, such as that of public policy, and in forming “superdepartments” — such as the Department of Economics — that coordinate efforts across multidisciplinary areas.

Cornell currently has the 24th-ranked public policy analysis program according to U.S. News rankings.

The implementation committee will be comprised of faculty who will be named in the coming weeks. Additionally, staff, students and alumni will be able to contribute their ideas through collaborative discussions, Kotlikoff said.

Across Cornell’s six undergraduate schools that offer coursework in the social sciences, there are over 70 individual academic departments.

Kotlikoff said that the center will coordinate lectures, panels and workshops relevant to the social sciences, many of which will be open to the Cornell community. The University, Kotlikoff said, hopes that the center will strengthen existing social science programs through added infrastructure. As of now, it is unclear what kind of infrastructure the center will establish.

U.S. News currently ranks University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, UC Berkeley and University of Chicago as the top three public policy analysis programs in the U.S., with Cornell placing at 24th.

Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy lead the center, along with a director that will be named “later this semester,” according to Kotlikoff.

Christopher Wildeman, co-leader of the implementation committee, told the University that the center will help “realize Cornell’s enormous potential, and maximize the prominence, stature and influence of policy scholarship at Cornell.”

“With the creation of the center, and new thinking around a public policy entity and the organization of core disciplines, we are trying to achieve greater visibility for faculty and their scholarship, enhanced opportunities for students and for Cornell to educate the next generation of engaged citizens and global policymakers,” Kotlikoff said in the press release.