Nov 2, 2013

Innovative Research Centers in the Social Sciences

If we had sent what is now our budget as a proposal to the Harvard administration to form IQSS [Institute for Quantitative Social Science], they would have thought we were crazy, politically naive, or both.3 The point, however, is that we did not build IQSS from scratch; we built it from components that existed—largely unconnected—around the university. In our case, these included the Murray Research Center, the Harvard-MIT Data Center, the Center for Geographic Analysis, and some others. In most universities, a good deal is spent on social science infrastructure, but the parts are scattered under different administrative units, not work- ing together, without any faculty direction, and each working less efficiently than they could together. Look for such units in the obvious places, but do not overlook the library, the information technology infrastructure, academic computing groups, and else- where in your administration.
A good approach is to carefully map out the local political land- scape and find existing units that already have some type of financial support. Then talk to those individuals who are in charge of each unit and find out what they need, how to empower them, how they can accomplish their goals by working together with you. Radical decentralization is often the best politically achievable path to centralization. Build from the ground up and the specific request to the administration can be more reasonable and easier to accomplish; instead of something they cannot approve, you can make it almost impossible to turn down.
The article by Gary King is very interesting. Via Alex Tabarrok at @MargRev

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