RSF Sponsors Summer Institutes on a Variety of Programmatic and Emerging Research Fields

August 1, 2019

The Russell Sage Foundation sponsored several Summer Institutes in 2019. These workshops, which ranged from three days to two weeks, gathered emerging scholars and journalists to learn, network, and discuss issues of importance to them and their fields, with a focus on areas of programmatic interest to the Foundation, including the Future of WorkSocial, Political, and Economic InequalityRace, Ethnicity, and ImmigrationComputational Social Science, and Integrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge

The Social Science Summer Institute for Journalists taught participants how to locate the best available social science research on their topics, how to identify and interact fruitfully with leading experts, and how to read academic publications for their journalistic relevance. This year’s sessions included “How to Think Like a Social Scientist” and “Social Science Techniques That Journalists Can Use.” The institute was led by RSF trustee Nicholas Lemann (Columbia University) and Tali Woodard (Columbia University) and held at the RSF offices in New York from July 17-19. 

The Summer Institute in Computational Social Science, jointly sponsored by RSF and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was held from June 16-29 at Princeton University. The principal investigators and program faculty were Matthew Salganik (Princeton University) and Christopher Bail (Duke University). This institute brought together graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and beginning faculty interested in computational social science, including both social scientists and data scientists. The instructional program involved lectures, group problem sets, and participant-led research projects. Topics covered by a range of outside speakers included text as data, website scraping, digital field experiments, non-probability sampling, mass collaboration, and ethics. In addition to the event at Princeton, there were also concurrent satellite sessions run by alumni of the 2017 and 2018 Summer Institutes in Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and around the United States.

The Summer Institute on Migration Research Methods, sponsored by RSF and the Carnegie Corporation, was hosted at Pennsylvania State University from June 9-16. The institute trained early career researchers in best practices and methodologies particularly relevant to the study of immigration and migrant populations. The co-organizers and principal faculty were Dr. Irene Bloemraad (University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. Jennifer Van Hook (Penn State). Each day of the institute included a mixture of instructional lectures and hands-on practical instruction or discussion, including conversations about professionalization and time for individualized feedback on participants’ work. An interdisciplinary team of guest instructors joined the directors in training participants in (1) ethics and best practices for mixed methods research design; (2) estimating causal relationships in research on immigrants and immigration policy; and (3) the use of administrative and linked longitudinal data sources to study change over time and across generations. The institute’s last day included sessions on how to increase the impact of research by translating findings for policy discussions and the public. 

The Summer Institute in Social Science Genomics, sponsored by RSF and the JPB Foundation, was held at the Pepper Tree Inn in Santa Barbara, California from June 9-21. The institute introduced graduate students and beginning faculty in economics, sociology, psychology, statistics, genetics, and other disciplines to the methods of social-science genomics—the analysis of genomic data in social science research. The program included interpretation and estimation of twin and family studies; the biology of genetics, gene expression, and epigenetics; design and analysis of genetic-association studies; analysis of gene-gene and gene-environment interactions; genetic estimation and use of polygenic scores; environmental pathways for genetic associations; ethical issues in social-science genomics; as well as applications of genomic data in the social sciences. The co-organizers and principal faculty of the Summer Institute were Daniel Benjamin (University of Southern California), David Cesarini (New York University), and Patrick Turley (Harvard-MIT Broad Institute). 

​The inaugural Summer Institute on Biological Approaches in the Social Sciences, with funding from RSF and the JPB Foundation, aimed to introduce early-career social science scholars to the theory, basic biology, and methods needed to collect and analyze biological processes in the service of social science research agendas. Stress-sensitive biological systems were emphasized, as such systems are strong candidates as putative mediators between social-contextual experiences and health and human capital outcomes. Specific topics addressed included the biology of, and minimally invasive measurement options for, the central nervous system (brain), autonomic nervous system, and neuroendocrine, cardiometabolic, immune, and sleep processes. Faculty presenters also discussed the contributions of genetics and epigenetics. Held at Northwestern University from June 10-14, the workshop was codirected by psychologist Greg Miller (Northwestern University), anthropologist Thomas McDade (Northwestern University), and psychobiologist Emma Adam (Northwestern University). 




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