July/August 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 6

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Science Policy

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SSRC Names Ira Katznelson New President

Ira Katznelson will be the next president of the Social Science Research Council, as announced to senior SSRC staff at the annual Board of Directors meeting on June 1, 2012, in New York City. He will take up his post on September 1, 2012.

Dr. Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University, is an accomplished social scientist, whose distinctive scholarship ranges across multiple fields, including American politics, comparative politics, and political theory. Prior to his position at Columbia, he taught at the University of Chicago, chairing its department of political science from 1979 to 1982, and at the New School for Social Research, where he was dean of the graduate faculty from 1983 to 1989. He was president of the American Political Science Association for 2005–2006, is a vice chair of the Academic Advisory Board of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and previously served as president of the Social Science History Association. Katznelson has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. An influential and prolific author, he was the founding editor of the interdisciplinary journal Politics & Society. His latest book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, is forthcoming in March 2013 from Norton’s Liveright imprint.

Professor Katznelson has played a leading role in many SSRC activities over the years, notably as a member of the Committee on States and Social Structures, a major Council initiative connecting new analyses of modern states within the social sciences, and a contributor to that committee’s volume on Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Current SSRC President Craig Calhoun recently commented that, “Ira Katznelson is one of the foremost social scientists in the world today and a wonderful choice to lead the SSRC. His work has been influential across many disciplines, reshaping research agendas both in the United States and throughout the world. Ira’s books address themes from race and urban politics to class and citizenship and the way war and trade have shaped political institutions. Through a career of intellectual productivity and distinction, he has also been an institutional leader, not least at the SSRC itself.”

Under Craig Calhoun’s leadership, the SSRC has initiated major projects on, among others, the public communication of social science knowledge, the privatization of risk, religion and the public sphere, HIV/AIDS, media reform and new communications technologies, transformations in knowledge production, Africa’s next generation of social scientists, African peacebuilding, and questions of how to assess and evaluate efforts to shape social change. The Council during his tenure has emphasized innovative public social science through initiatives such as the digital forum After September 11 and the social investigation Learning from Katrina.

Calhoun, a world-renowned social scientist whose work connects sociology and history to culture, communication, politics, philosophy, and economics, has been appointed the next director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. He will take up that post on September 1, 2012.


Obama Administration Announces $200 Million in New R&D Investments

Aiming to capitalize on the fast-growing volume of digital data, the Obama Administration announced in late March a “Big Data Research and Development Initiative.” By improving our ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data, the initiative promises to help solve some the Nation’s most pressing challenges.

To launch the initiative, six Federal departments and agencies announced more than $200 million in new commitments that, together, promise to greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.

“In the same way that past Federal investments in information-technology R&D led to dramatic advances in supercomputing and the creation of the Internet, the initiative we are launching today promises to transform our ability to use Big Data for scientific discovery, environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security,” said Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The initiative responds to recommendations by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which last year concluded that the Federal Government is under-investing in technologies related to Big Data. In response, OSTP launched a Senior Steering Group on Big Data to coordinate and expand the Government’s investments in this critical area.

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