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Social Observatory Coordinating Network

Faculty Associates Sandra Hofferth and Klaus Hubacek are participating in an NSF-funded interdisciplinary effort to explore the feasibility and potential structure of a network of social observatories akin to networks in the physical sciences

The Research Coordinating Network, NSF Social Observatories Coordinating Network (SOCN), is designed to assist NSF in the development and planning of a set of observatories for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences that will transform SBE science. There are three reasons why we should plan a set of observatories at this time:  (1) the critical questions of our time cannot be answered by one discipline alone and, moreover, efficiencies can be gained by coordinating efforts across disciplines, (2) we need to move in new directions to marry broad perspectives on social change over large social, spatial, and temporal scales with an in-depth and fine-grained understanding of social processes and decisions; (3) to support this vision and to achieve these goals, we need to gain access to and fully utilize administrative, transactional, observational, and other forms of data not specifically designed to support scientific research. The observatories will address questions of central interest in SBE sciences, particularly those that benefit from place-based research, and will focus on two broad intellectual themes:  (1) opportunity and mobility and (2) change and adaptation. This initiative builds on previous workshops sponsored by NSF (in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011) that led to a consensus on a design that could, in the long term and when fully developed, represent the entire U.S. population. The chief objective of the RCN network is to further develop the design of the observatory network and to make detailed recommendations to NSF on the specifications that should be a part of an RFP for pilot studies and the testing of different ideas for a fully developed network.

For more information about this project, see the project website.