The new Institute for Social Sciences opened Oct. 13 at UC Davis. The institute, which has been in the works since 2011, will focus on interdisciplinary research projects.
Vicky Austin, assistant director of the institute, said that it will work to bring together researchers from different academic interests on campus.
“We will actively work to connect our researchers with scholars across campus to build bridges between the social sciences and disciplines ranging from education to engineering, medicine to management and law to the liberal arts,” Austin said.
Joe Dumit, a UC Davis professor of anthropology and science and technology studies, is the director of the new institute.
“I’m really happy to be heading up this new institute to support interdisciplinary research in the social sciences,” Dumit said.
According to George R. Mangun, dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Dumit was chosen as director of the new institute from a highly selective group of accomplished individuals. A search committee of faculty and staff reviewed formal applications that were submitted last year, after leading candidates were interviewed. Based on the committee’s recommendations, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi made the appointment.
Austin believes that the new Institute for Social Sciences can help support and further interdisciplinary research on tough social issues from multiple perspectives.
“Social sciences research has bearing on the most important issues of our day, from things like inequality and poverty to bullying, education reform, delivery of healthcare and climate change. If a topic has to do with humans and society, social sciences has something to say about it!” said Austin.
Dumit believes that improvements to technology will also present new ways of attaining research.
“Current challenges include the many new sources of data from our technology, social media and everyday surveillance,” Dumit said. “How is this changing our lives and how is it changing how we can study our lives?”
In addition to research, the new institute will hold a variety of events and program opportunities.
“We will be hosting many different conferences, lectures and colloquia, which will bring the community of scholars and students together to talk about the important issues of our day,” Austin said. “We will support and assist faculty in the social sciences in their efforts to apply for external funding for their research.”
Mangun hopes that undergraduate and graduate students will become involved in the variety of different social sciences programs the new institute offers variety of different programs as well. The institute will allow students to attend all events (e.g., visiting speakers) and they will also be able to compete for fellowships and participate in research with faculty.
“We are also going to be planning and launching an undergraduate research program, where we will pair undergraduates with social sciences faculty so they can participate actively in research projects,” Austin said. “We plan to have this program launched by next academic year.”
Meanwhile, students interested in learning more about the institute will be able to find its offices in the Social Sciences and Humanities buildings, where the other social sciences programs are also located.
Austin stresses that the new Institute for Social Sciences was created to have a positive impact on research, perhaps even globally.
“We hope [it] will help to foster new research… that will have a positive impact on the world, especially when that research might be translated into new knowledge that may impact [policymaking],” Austin said. “We hope that through helping to train the next generation of scholars, the ripple effects of our work will be felt for generations.”