Committee report on Data-Intensive Social Science

Monday, February 24, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to share the report of the University-wide Committee on Data-Intensive Social Sciences with you. Yale has long been a leader in social science, educating students and conducting research relevant to the most pressing issues facing the world today. Excellent social science takes place across the campus: in departments in the FAS, the Law School, the School of Management, the School of the Environment (formerly Forestry & Environmental Studies), the School of Public Health, and elsewhere. 

We have identified two key priorities in the social sciences. The first is to transform the Jackson Institute into the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, Yale’s first new school in over four decades. The second is to apply empirical social science to public policy questions, an area that spans schools and departments and complements our existing strengths. As President Salovey wrote, “[a] great university should be engaging in the great debates of its era, and our students – the leaders of tomorrow – should participate. But that engagement must be grounded in evidence-based inquiry and rigorous analysis of facts.”  To this end, last year we launched the Tobin Center for Economic Policy to advance rigorous, nonpartisan economic research that defines and informs domestic policy debates. Space for the Tobin Center will be under construction soon. 

In order to investigate and guide additional investments in this priority area, former provost Ben Polak convened the University-wide Committee on Data-Intensive Social Sciences. The committee, chaired by Dean of the Social Sciences Division of the FAS and Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Political Science Alan Gerber, was charged with recommending initiatives to support data-intensive social science across the campus. The provost asked the committee to make recommendations in the areas of research infrastructure and shared resources, teaching, and organizational structure and behavior.

The committee solicited feedback from faculty members in relevant areas and schools. Committee members studied peer institutions to learn how they support research and education in data-intensive social science. They reviewed Yale’s current offerings and resources, as well as challenges and areas that could be strengthened.

The committee recommends the creation of a data-intensive social science center to facilitate the acquisition and use of sensitive and restricted data. It also made a few suggestions regarding the Yale College curriculum and the expansion of pre-doctoral programs that allow fellows to work with faculty on programs of research in data-intensive social science. A number of other thoughtful ideas are presented as well. 

In addition to sharing the report with you, I write to seek your perspectives as you consider the committee’s recommendations. I encourage you to read the report and provide feedback through this webform.

I am grateful to Alan Gerber and the other members of the committee for the considerable time and effort they devoted to this important and challenging task. I look forward to hearing your views on this report, and on working with you to build on our extraordinary foundation in both the qualitative and the quantitative social sciences.

Scott Strobel
Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry 
Professor of Chemistry