The Social Science Research Commons (SSRC) is the culmination of over five years of planning to stimulate, coordinate, and sustain social science research on the Bloomington campus.
In 2006, interest in creating an “intellectual center” for social science research on the Bloomington campus, in the form of the Bureau for Social Science Research (BSSR), developed simultaneously through Provost Michael McRobbie, Vice Provost for Research Sarita Soni, and discussions among 20 social science faculty and researchers. The mission of the BSSR was to stimulate proposals for external funding; support proposal development and grant management; coordinate research infrastructure and develop new, shared resources and services; provide training in research methods and grantsmanship; and enhance the visibility and impact of social science research through publicity, advocacy, and outreach. Professor Scott Long’s proposal for the BSSR included a thorough assessment of existing resources and expertise on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus, as well as an investigation of centers on a variety of other campuses. His investigation revealed both strengths and weaknesses in the state of social science research at Indiana University. Of particular concern was the consensus that existing infrastructure in support of research was fragmented and underdeveloped, with variation in the type and availability of resources available and utilized across campus and with social sciences dispersed across campus without a physical center or intellectual or organizational focus.
Under the auspices of the BSSR, the Consortium for Education and Social Science Research (CESSR) was formed in 2009, with a mission to enhance social and behavioral science research on the Bloomington campus. In particular, it was clear to the Consortium that social and behavioral scientists needed to be provided with greater grant management and support, as well as collaborative environments where research, technology, and staffing could be shared and exchanged among research centers, academic units, and outside partners. The Consortium also saw the need to provide rich and varied training opportunities to faculty and students in both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and build stronger ties to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), especially through greater participation in summer workshops. After two years of intensive planning, the BSSR’s charter was subsumed within this collective partnership, and the Consortium (CESSR) became the administrative unit under which the task of facilitating social science research on campus would be centered.
In 2009, the Consortium began to provide grant management and support and provided a mechanism through which units could share positions to enhance the quality of services. Through its centralized knowledge base of grant activity, the Consortium provided proposal development services to faculty from nearly every major academic unit on campus, helped faculty find new collaborators, and increased contract vehicles for Federal projects. Evidence of success was striking: social science proposals to the NIH, NSF, IES, and other external funding organizations increased over 100% in 2010. The shared services approach has proven to be both cost-efficient and effective.
In addition to these grant services, the Consortium developed the Workshop in Methods (WIM). WIM provides education and training in sophisticated research methods to both social science faculty and graduate students, with the goal of supplementing statistics and methods courses across campus with workshops led by recognized experts from across the United States. Summer workshops, sponsored by ICPSR and in collaboration between the Schuessler Institute and the departments of political science, sociology, and statistics, on such topics as spatial regression and network theory were also held on the Bloomington campus. These workshops were conducted in Woodburn Hall 200.
Woodburn Hall 200 provided a unique space on the Bloomington campus that previously served as a lecture hall and as the library or “Research Collection” for political science. The space was largely open and unencumbered, with vaulted, cathedral-like ceilings and a west wall featuring a stunning, circular stained-glass window. The natural alcoves on the periphery of the room lend themselves to office partitions. Occupying over 4,000 square feet of space, WH 200 is centrally located on campus, just minutes from the School of Education, School of Journalism, School of Public Health, Department of Sociology, Department of Economics, and other social science departments. It is also just steps from the Department of Political Science and the Interdisciplinary Experimental Lab (WH 220), a multidisciplinary research facility funded through the NSF and the College of Arts and Science, recognized by the Nobel Committee in awarding Elinor Ostrom’s 2009 Nobel Prize.
Woodburn Hall 200 provided an ideal location for the creation of the Social Science Research Commons, a space to create a powerful, centralized hub for social science research on campus. This central space became the new home for the mission and activities begun under the Consortium (CESSR), which paved the way for and was subsumed within the new SSRC. In 2011, Indiana University donated the entire 12,000-volume political science research collection to India’s O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU). Woodburn Hall 200 was formally re-named the Social Science Research Commons in November 2012.
Plans for the SSRC were finalized in a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences, in particular Jane McLeod, Associate Dean for Social and Historical Sciences and for Graduate Education, Associate Executive Dean Jean Robinson, and Executive Dean Larry Singell; Terry Mason, Associate Vice Provost for the Social Sciences, and Vice Provost for Research Sarita Soni; IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson, and incoming Provost Lauren Robel; Russ Hanson of Political Science; UITS and James Russell of the College IT Office; and a multidisciplinary SSRC Advisory Board.
Renovation of WH 200 began in the summer of 2012 and was finalized in August 2013. The space now provides state-of-the-art information technology, including mobile groupings of computers, collaborative workspace, and technology to support remote collaboration. The SSRC also provides a gateway to resources and expertise beyond WH 200, serving as both a virtual and physical portal to a broad network of institutional support for every stage and aspect of social science research. In the spring of 2013, James Walker of Economics was selected as the SSRC’s Interim Director.
The SSRC is funded jointly by the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, reflecting its collaborative orientation.