Director's Corner

August 2017

Certainly, it’s beneficial to the advancement of knowledge for professional organizations and institutions of higher education to encourage excellence both within and across the disciplines – without it, we would forfeit countless provocative insights into human behavior and a great deal of knowledge that’s directly applicable to improving the human condition, not to mention advances in research methods that are essential to future discovery.
Increasing interest in interdisciplinary work over the last several decades is not an accident: the academic disciplines have been extraordinary for the life of the mind and the advancement of scholarship, but much less able to provide useful knowledge to the broader society and to policy-makers empowered to influence social progress.  The enormous complexity of human and social behavior requires research that’s ecumenical in its approach, but social progress has not been a superordinate goal in the history of science and the incentive structures of institutions of higher education haven’t encouraged interdisciplinary work.  The relatively scant quantitative research on cross-disciplinary involvements among faculty shows that graduate students (not yet devoted to disciplinary approaches and still sussing out their intellectual callings) and senior professors and PI’s (with greater intellectual freedom, social capital and professional networks) are more involved in interdisciplinary work, but junior scholars pursuing tenure and mid-career academics are the least likely to be engaged in such involvements.
All of this comes to mind because AAPSS staff is hard at work promoting the July volume of The ANNALS: The New Rural-Urban Interface, from special editors Dan Lichter and James Ziliak.  In many ways this volume is an exemplar of what an interdisciplinary approach can reveal.  Papers from a bevy of sociologists and economists, with contributions from political science, agriculture, education criminology, and demography, show that in a time of apparent deep divide between rural and urban America, we are actually becoming more economically interdependent, that rural spaces are becoming increasingly “urbanized,” and that rural and urban populations share a growing number of educational and public health challenges.
I feel privileged to work for an organization that has been dedicated since its founding to promoting such practical, cross-disciplinary social research.  There is a great deal of activity in America’s research universities meant to encourage social scientists to engage in this kind of work earlier and more often in their careers, but it will take time to change the course of a national research enterprise toward more practical ends.  AAPSS and The ANNALS will be supportive of that change through the decades to come. 
Thomas Kecskemethy

The Academy Remembers Fellow Peter Berger

107cf8db-f90c-4152-9b1c-a44be5dc1f26.jpgAcademy Fellow Peter Berger, a sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion, passed away on June 27, 2017, at the age of 88.
Berger was a professor emeritus of sociology, religion, and theology at Boston University, where he also founded the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs in 1985. He served as its first director from its inception until 2009.  He is the author of more than two dozen books, including the influential work, The Social Construction of Reality (Anchor Books 1966), which was named by the International Sociological Association as the fifth most influential book written in the field of sociology in the twentieth century.
Read More…

AAPSS Fellow, Board Member Robert Hauser Becomes Executive Officer of the American Philosophical Society

Robert HauserOn June 12, 2017, Robert Hauser became executive officer of The American Philosophical Society (APS).  The APS, which is the nation’s oldest learned society, is based in Philadelphia.   Hauser most recently spent six years as the executive director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Prior to that, he spent 40 years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he served as the Vilas Research Professor of Sociology. Hauser’s work on intergenerational status attainment has led to greater understanding of the ways inequality persists across generations. From 1969 to 2010, he led the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has followed more than 10,000 Wisconsin high school graduates of 1957 and their siblings to study the life course and aging. 

Hauser was elected a Fellow of the Academy and to its Board of Directors in 2013. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. 

A Doctor’s Alma Mater Might Influence Opioid Prescription Rates

AAPSS Fellow Janet Currie co-authored, with Molly Schnell, an NBER working paper that asks whether physician education plays a role in the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States.
Based on analysis of data for how many opioid prescriptions the prescriber wrote each year as well as where the prescriber completed medical school, Currie and Schnell’s research shows that doctors in the United States who completed their education at higher-ranked medical schools write significantly fewer prescriptions for opioids than those from schools ranked lower, regardless of where the doctors practice. They found that general practitioners who trained at the highest-ranked school, Harvard, wrote an average of 180.2 opioid prescriptions per year, while physicians from the lowest-ranked schools wrote an average of nearly 550 per year.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with more than 90 people a day dying from overdoses in 2015.  

Welcome to Our New Intern

a7f53797-56e5-4e60-8278-85c81814155a.jpgPlease join us in welcoming David deLacoste-Azizi to the Academy. David joined us an intern in July.  He is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in political science.  He has also studied Management Information Systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. David’s academic interests include survey research and data analytics, but he has experience in technical support and project management.  He will continue to assist us with various administrative and technical projects during the school year.  Welcome, David! 

Coming up in The ANNALS

Students attending public inner city schools face various challenges and disadvantages that their counterparts living in more affluent, often majority-white, suburban public schools do not necessarily face. Yet students from urban schools are expected to meet the same achievement standards as their suburban counterparts. 
In the September volume of The ANNALS special editors Elijah Anderson and Luke Anderson bring together ethnographers, scholars, educators, administrators, and students to address the many issues that inner city students face—near-constant surveillance, disproportionate disciplinary practices, poverty, and the school to prison to deportation pipeline, among others. The volume also offers an international comparative perspective on these issues with case studies from France.  
Call for nominations for the 2019 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize. Nominations open September 19, 2017.

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Call for 2019 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize Nominations

We are accepting nominations for the 2019 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize. The Moynihan Prize recognizes social scientists, public officials, and other leaders in the public arena who champion the use of informed judgment to improve public policy.  

Candidates must be able to accept the award in person at a ceremony to be held the following spring as well as deliver a major public policy address on a topic of his/her choosing. Please click here for more information and to submit a nomination. 

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