Why Study Social Science

Kindred Winecoff, himself a political scientist, writes in reaction to my earlier post:

This is an opportunity for the social sciences to demonstrate their value by making a clear, coherent argument. Simply pointing to research on topics of possible public interest (as Sides does) is not enough… it must be accompanied by an argument that that research is more deserving of public funding than something else. So far I have not seen such an argument made. I have seen social scientists act like any other interest group: they want public spending on programs that benefit them because those programs benefit them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a bit distasteful to equate common rent-seeking behavior with a broad public interest. If the social sciences deserve public funding they ought to be able to make the case on its merits. In a way, Cantor is challenging us to think like civically-minded social scientists.

As I responded to him and to a commenter, I think I and others have tried to make an argument that goes beyond “rent-seeking” and, indeed, we’ve tried over and over again.  But let me try to engage this question again, and at the broadest possible level.

We study social science because social phenomena affect people’s lives in profound ways.  If you want to start with Cantor’s focus—physical illness and death—then social phenomena are tremendously important.  Social ills—poverty, lack of formal education, family dysfunction, ineffective governments, wars—are associated with and arguably cause a great deal of physical illness and death.  You can do a lot to fight malaria with medicine, and we need new and better medicines to do so, but those treatments aren’t going to go very far in some developing countries—or at least as far—without more stable political institutions and more effective civil society organizations.  Doctors in labs can create a miracle drug.  However, that drug won’t do that much good if you can’t get it to needy populations because roaming militias set up roadblocks and kill NGO workers. If social and political scientists can figure out how to help create stable democratic institutions, how to help resolve civil wars, whether and how foreign intervention can help ameliorate conflict, etc., etc., then they will help save lives—both on their own and in concert with other scientists who focus on new medicines, or more efficient cookstoves, or new ways to filter drinking water, or what have you.

Now let’s leave killing and death behind, since much social science isn’t about that.  Social phenomena also matter in less dramatic ways, but in ways that still make people’s lives profoundly better or worse.  Consider this partial list:

  • Families.  What makes families more or less successful?   What makes marriages more successful?  What makes them fail?  What are the effects of divorce?  Does it hurt the children of divorce?  How much, in what ways, and for how long?  A medical doctor can treat the effects of family dysfunction and divorce—say, with anti-depressants or therapy and so on—but we can learn and know more about how to prevent some of this dysfunction from doing social science.
  • Schools. What are effective means of educating children?  What makes for good teachers?  How can we measure and evaluate teaching and learning?  How can we overcome inequalities in educational achievement created by socioeconomic status and other factors?  The “hard” sciences and medicine might be able to help a bit here, but these too are mostly questions for social science.
  • Economies.  Fundamentally, what makes them grow or shrink?  Few things are as central to people’s quality of life as economic prosperity.  Here again, there is synergy with, say, medicine: getting sick affects your ability to be economically productive.  But doctors are not going to be shed much light on this question.  Economists and other social scientists can.
  • Mass Media.  The information conveyed through mass media—cultural, political, and otherwise—can profoundly influence how we understand the world.  How is that information produced?  What are the incentives and norms that govern media organizations?  How does that information affect people?  How does that information help or hurt people—for example, by dismantling or reinforcing stereotypes, or by mitigating or fomenting outright violence?  Social scientists spend a lot of time trying to figure this out.
  • Attitudes.  Why do people develop particular attitudes about social and political phenomena?  How does those attitudes affect subsequent behavior?  Whether people like or dislike social groups, for example, has an impact on the quality of life for those groups.  So we must understand the origins and evolution of attitudes like prejudice.
  • Social networks.  The networks which people are embedded—which encompass families and schools as well as other institutions—can affect many things about them.  Whether they are healthy, whether they are prejudiced, whether they can survive natural disasters, and so on.

That is just a quick jaunt through some of the foundational topics in sociology, economics, psychology, and other social sciences.  I should say that the politics, and therefore political science, is immanent in all of those.  The policies that governments produce can affect families—for example, by providing child care subsidies, or by allowing same-sex couples to be married and build their own families.  Politics also affects the economy, needless to say.  Witness the gains or losses of wealth that could be attributed to government stimulus, to austerity, to debt ceiling debates, to financial crises.  How political institutions function—and the roles played by voters, leaders, reporters, activists—will also end up affecting people’s lives in myriad other ways.  Whether they live in poverty, whether they get parental leave when their kids are born, how easy it is to buy a house, how long they sit in traffic, how much tax they pay, how good their health care is, and so on and on.

My problem with this laser focus on the hard sciences and on medicine is that it pretends that people’s quality of life simply depends on physical phenomena—how fast computers are or how much their knee hurts and so on.   That’s simply not true.  Much of people’s happiness—indeed, including whether they have access to computers or can endure a physical malady—depends on social phenomena.  If I wanted to turn the tables, it wouldn’t be hard to find research in medicine and the “hard” sciences that seems much further removed from people’s daily lives—and their actual happiness living those lives—than is much social science.

But none of that speaks to trade-offs: why should the government fund social science over, say, medicine?  At one level, that’s not a fair question, because it assumes a zero-sum game that doesn’t necessarily exist or need to exist.  Why not fund both social science and the “hard” sciences by reducing agricultural subsidies?  But I’ll grant the question for the sake of argument.

One answer I’d give is that it’s very hard to determine the value of any research ahead of time.  It’s hard because any one research project is narrow.  It’s hard because you can’t anticipate how one project might inform later ones.  It’s hard because some funding goes to create public goods—like large datasets—that many others will use, and those myriad projects also cannot be anticipated.  It’s hard because some research won’t work, and we can’t know that ahead of time.  (Commenter Eric L. makes this point as well.)   For example, my mom worked on a multi-million dollar NIH grant to see whether certain vitamins would reduce the risk of a second stroke among stroke victims.  Null effect.  Here’s the JAMA article.  Easy to say, “What a waste.  I can’t believe Sides’s mom got all that dough.  Should have given those millions of dollars to political scientists studying civil war.”  But how can you know?  And even if the medical research did work, it’s very hard to measure its impact relative to other research in other fields.   If a new drug extends the lives of patients with a particular kind of terminal, but rare, pancreatic cancer by 2 months, what is the value of that relative to research that shows how to improve the reading abilities of thousands or even millions of children?

You can’t answer questions of relative benefit very easily.  And thus to say that entire fields of study are worth $0 in federal funding but other fields of study are worth millions or billions of dollars reflects very little about the actual or potential real-world impact of those fields’ research programs.  Even a more nuanced claim—the marginal impact of every dollar spent on medical research is greater than the marginal impact of every dollar spend on social science—is hard to test.  Nor is it clear why the most impact wouldn’t be attained not by doing zero-sum calculations between sprawling and disparate fields like “medicine” and “social science” but by funding only the most promising medical research and only the most promising social science research.  Alas, then we’re back to figuring out what is “promising” a priori.

Given these challenges, what the federal government does do and should do is allow its elected leaders to make decisions about how to allocate resources across multiple fields of study—via funding of the NIH, NSF, etc.—and then allow processes of peer review by experts in those fields to determine which specific projects seem most promising.  Eric Cantor and others are perfectly within their rights—indeed, it is their job—to decide how much funding these agencies receive or whether they receive any funding.  It is also their job to exercise oversight over these agencies to ensure there is minimal fraud and waste. Scientists are not entitled to federal funding any more than farmers or highways.

My point is simply that what political leaders seek to do—what good government seeks to do—is make the lives of citizens better.  Social phenomena are central to the quality of our lives.  Thus we gain from funding the disciplines that illuminate those phenomena.

34 Responses to Why Study Social Science

  1. Andrew Gelman February 5, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I’d also like to add that I’ve served on NSF panels and we do consider social benefit from NSF-funded research, and it can come in different ways. For example, I’ve seen political scientists, economists, and sociologists funded to do methodological work. The resulting research on robust standard errors or multilevel modeling or age-period-cohort analysis has the potential to be useful in the health sciences. In fact, these sorts of models are used in the health sciences.

    Now you might say that NIH could fund this research directly, or that NSF could fund it under the statistics program, but that’s another debate. I think it’s good to have multiple programs rather than one single place where all methods funding gets spent. My point is that NSF social science methods spending goes toward public goods, in the sense of methods that can be used in a wide variety of applications. And, given the current state of medical science, I think statistics research is central to finding cures to diseases.

    By commenting on methodological research, I’m not disparaging other NSF-funded work such as the National Election Study and the General Social Survey; I’m just focusing on what I know best. I agree with John that political-science goals such as understanding social and political polarization are themselves important even if they don’t cure any disease.

  2. Kindred Winecoff February 5, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Nice post. I’m not sure whether it came across in my post that I was raising the questions I raised in good faith. That is, I’m not convinced that Cantor is right. But he’s raised a point that deserves to be taken seriously. I don’t disagree with much in this post, but I also don’t think it demonstrates that Cantor is wrong to question the social value of federal subsidies for (e.g.) political science.

    You suggest we rely on the wisdom of experts. The NSF received $7bn in 2012. (I believe that is too low.) Of that, political science received about $11mn, or one-tenth of 1% of the total. I.e., the NSF doesn’t take political science very seriously. They’ve allocated us a token amount, a rounding error. That might be a mistake, but it suggests that your conclusion — allow the experts to decide what is most worthy of public subsidy — is pretty damning for political science. The experts don’t think we’re worth it, at least relative to other things. Cantor’s not doing much more than agreeing with them.

    Given all of the (at least potential) benefits from understanding how politics impacts outcomes, as you’ve so helpfully discussed, the question is why we are unable to articulate why and how our work is worth federal subsidy in a persuasive way?

    We’re political scientists. We ought to know how to form coalitions and lobby the government successfully. Particularly if what we do actually is in the public interest.

    • John Sides February 6, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      Kindred: The entire social sciences directorate of the NSF (the SBE) received about $200 million of that $7 billion. So it’s not just political science that receives a small sum. But these sorts of calculations don’t get us very far, since social science research is relatively inexpensive compared to research in many other scientific fields. Perhaps the $200 million doesn’t reflect the importance or quality of the research so much as its cost. I doubt very much that the opinions of the NSF are in line with Eric Cantor’s.

      • John Sides February 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

        One other note: political science has the second largest budget within the SBE (economics has the largest).

  3. Knifecakes February 6, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Given these challenges, what the federal government does do and should do is allow its elected leaders to make decisions about how to allocate resources across multiple fields of study—via funding of the NIH, NSF, etc.—and then allow processes of peer review by experts in those fields to determine which specific projects seem most promising

    Yeah, that’ll work…a different kind of “Good ole boy” network emerges devouring more $$. The great thing about society is we don’t have to have “scientists ” in order to have an understanding…we just have to be breathing.

    • John Sides February 6, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Knifecakes: There is no “network devouring more $$.” The “network” only gets as much money as Congress allocates to it.

    • Nadia Hassan February 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      I think it takes resources and expertise, not just breathing, to get research like Esther Duflo’s.

  4. RobC February 6, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Permit me to focus narrowly on one issue you raised, though it’s admittedly incidental to the thrust of your post. You write about your mother’s NIH-funded research into whether certain vitamins would reduce the risk of a second stroke among stroke victims, which resulted in a finding of null effect. And you suggest that the reaction to that might be, “What a waste.” You go on to say, “And even if the medical research did work, it’s very hard to measure its impact relative to other research in other fields.”

    But here’s the thing. The medical research did work. The finding of null effect advances knowledge in an important way. Until social scientists become as respectful of a finding of null effect as they are of a finding of a significant effect, until they treat it as equally worthy of publication and tenure and esteem within the profession, we’re going to be mired in a morass of research using convenience samples, small populations and questionable techniques, research that’s rarely replicated and that serves more to provide grist for literature reviews than truly to advance knowledge, research that is not only a waste of money but a waste of the time and effort of some very capable people. Tenured professors, you’re the gatekeepers. The burden on changing incentives within the profession rests with you.

    • John Sides February 6, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      RobC: Oh, I certainly agree that finding null effects is important. I’ve published many! But I think it’s common, especially for those outside of scientific research, to believe that studies like my mom’s “failed” and so I used it as an example. But that doesn’t reflect my opinion about null results.

  5. Asha February 6, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    “You study social science if you want to spend al your time reading papers that don’t seem to have a point,” says the bitter political science student.

  6. LFC February 6, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    From the OP
    If social and political scientists can figure out how to help create stable democratic institutions, how to help resolve civil wars, whether and how foreign intervention can help ameliorate conflict, etc., etc., then they will help save lives—both on their own and in concert with other scientists who focus on new medicines, or more efficient cookstoves, or new ways to filter drinking water, or what have you.

    There’s a missing step here, it seems to me: once a scientist (social or natural scientist) has shown that a particular measure will save lives, governments then have to fund the measure itself. Otherwise the research, however practical its implications, won’t have a practical impact.

    One example: research on civil wars has shown that cease-fires are more likely to stick if UN or other peacekeepers are used than if they aren’t. But this finding will only have its full practical impact if governments put up the money to sustain/expand the UN peacekeeping budget. To repeat, in order to solve problems, it’s not enough for government(s) to fund research with practical implications or prescriptions; it’s necessary to fund the prescriptions themselves. Otherwise the research, no matter how useful it potentially is, is going to get someone tenure, but that’s all it’s going to do.

  7. Peter T February 6, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    You give Eric Cantor half the game when you adopt his utilitarianism. His real question is why the government should fund this research; his hope, of course, is that without government funding all those librul professors will be on the streets, while research that reaches more comfortable conclusions will be funded by the Heritage Foundation. But we engage in political science (or any other research) not just because it is useful, but because it satisfies one of our deeper needs – the need to know more about the world. And the government is currently our means of expressing this need at a collective level. So the answers to Cantor are – because we are political animals, because wisdom is worth more than money, and because the government acts for us all when our single acts are ineffectual.

  8. surveyscientist February 6, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    with a democratic senate and presidency, is this something that is of real concern?

    • John Sides February 6, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Maybe not. But if there’s a drumbeat of opposition to funding social scientific research, I think that needs to be met by a drumbeat of advocacy for that research.

      • surveyscientist February 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        good reply.

    • Neocon Cowboy February 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      “…his hope, of course, is that without government funding all those librul professors will be on the streets, while research that reaches more comfortable conclusions will be funded by the Heritage Foundation…”

      As academic social scientists in large part rely upon the ambrosial milk of the government tit, they can never be objective in their conclusions about the issue of what the scope of government should be in our lives. This, in addition to group think, and other historical factors, accounts for the well documented ‘librul’ bias in the social sciences. It is therefore, refreshing and necessary that conservative think tanks fill the void of perspective, and there is no reason in principle that they cater to interests any more than those in academia.

  9. Eric Keller February 6, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    With appropriate fear and trembling…being a lowly PhD student…I do have a question here. Without being overly dramatic, what is it in political science that Republicans fear so much- they call it out by name? Why, out of all of the social sciences, do they hone in on political science? Is it possible, that in conducting research, political science tends to shine a bright light on the murky business of everyday politics which is not to Eric Cantor’s advantage?

  10. Luis February 6, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    As Peter T mentioned, the most important weakness in Cantor’s argument is utilitarianism. I have never understood why the defensive strategies used by the Monkey cage now and before, and, for that matter, by the NSF-sponsored AJPS series on “useful” research, ignored this issue. For scientific research does not have to be defended on how useful it is for society. Any scientific inquiry is supposed to be valuable on its own right, because we want to build knowledge on different aspects of reality. The social and political arenas are fundamental in this regard; as long as a scientific program is built around them, no further defense for state support of research in these areas is needed. The language of trade-offs, raised by some critics, is also not applicable once utilitarianism ceases to be the premise. In the extreme, if utilitarianism is the standard, plenty of research that we consider canonical, for instance, on elections, legislatures and political economy would not be worthy of funding. The debate would be lost before it started.

  11. Scott McClurg February 6, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    One of the real ironies for me is that one of the Republicans’ budget priorities — protecting the Defense budget — is a large source for research monies. I think they be better off arguing that the government should fund research through the cabinet offices (and the like) rather than through NSF, which funds a lot of “basic” research. I don’t agree with that position per se, but it makes more sense to me than the “we learn nothing, so don’t fund it” argument. (But I clearly have a vested interest in the current system, so take it FWIW.)

  12. John Sides February 6, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Peter T and Luis: I agree that knowledge is worthwhile for it’s own sake, but I am not sure that is enough justification for federal funding. And even if it is, I think there is strategic value in granting the premises of an opponent like Cantor and trying to argue on his terms — rather than fight an even bigger battle over the premises themselves.

  13. LFC February 6, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Certainly, knowledge is valuable for its own sake but it’s not reasonable, in a time of perceived and to some extent real budgetary constraint, to expect NSF to fund research which can’t be given *some* kind of utilitarian justification. (And some kinds of social science research do have such justification, as the original post and A. Gelman’s comment indicate.) Much of the work — indeed, I would say most of the work — by political scientists that I personally find most interesting is *not* in the ‘utilitarian’ or ‘useful’ category, but I wouldn’t expect NSF to fund it.

  14. Ryan February 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I think the mistake is to assume that the study of political science leads undergraduate students to become political scientists. I find it questionable to assume that the study of business prepares a student any less than a focus on political science or sociology in the non-technical job market. So, in part the devil is in the details as to what constitutes appropriate programs of education in the national interest. Business? Law? Statistics?

    To assert that Federal funding should be focused towards providing funding for students interested in pursuing technical skills (math, computer science, hard sciences), instead of ‘soft’ sciences, is a conversation worth having. However, regardless of the cost-benefit analysis, the funding solution to push students towards certain disciplines is not ideal. I would prefer that the undergraduate education, even in the social sciences, have an increased focus in the technical skills in the discipline. Political science students should be able to process data sets and understand and run basic regressions. Psychology students should be able to assist and run clinical trials and compile the data. Excel and basic literacy in quantitative software should not be optional. Allow the academic institutions to serve as the clearinghouse: to gain access to federal funds for its students, it would be required to ensure that students in the social sciences are literate in quantitative methods and data analysis in a way that makes them attractive in the modern economy.

    What Cantor really wants I suspect, as others have noted, is to simply trim the budget. He is not interested in all students currently receiving funding in social sciences simply switching over to become physics majors. He wants to cut funding down to a lower level, while somewhat increasing the number of students in technical disciplines.

  15. Tracy Lightcap February 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I would add two things – and only two – to this conversation.

    First, cast your eyes on this graph:


    As can be seen, we really, really, really don’t need more money going into the NIH and NSF to fund biomedical research. Most of that cash goes into grants for instantly redundant Ph.D.s who mainly function to provide cheap skilled labor for principle investigators. They then go on to post-docs, then they find themselves out on a market where there are no academic/research openings and where they are over-qualified for the jobs that are available. But I doubt this would cut much ice with Cantor; it’s evidence so it’s icky.

    Second, the biggest single problem we have in the social sciences is that everyone thinks that the only legitimate sciences are Athenian. That is, they: a) are about largely invariant and easily described states of affairs, b) can produce deductive theories that make sense, c) theoretical predictions can be tested with experiments, and d) the results of the experiments are definitive. Political science – like, say, meteorology, medicine, astronomy, ect. – is a Manchesterian science. That is, they: a) are about variable states of affairs that are difficult to describe conclusively, b) produce largely inductive and historical theories, c) theoretical predictions are based largely on statistical analysis, and d) the results of analysis are probabilistic in character. This does not mean that the Manchesterian sciences aren’t sciences and can’t tell us a lot about what we need to know about. (Indeed, Freeman Dyson, the person who came up with the typology, said he preferred to think of physics as Manchesterian.) What it does mean is that it doesn’t look like particle physics and hasn’t delivered the atom bomb. I’m not sure what we do to combat this besides pointing to examples in, say, astronomy that are just as fuzzy as anything found in the social sciences. And, needless to say, our findings have much more relevance to peoples’s lives then the location of new neutron stars.

  16. Larry Bartels February 7, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Would several thousand premature deaths per year be socially consequential (http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/01/30/politics-is-a-matter-of-life-and-death-times-23000/)?

    • RobC February 7, 2013 at 3:01 am #

      It’s precisely that sort of tendentious, agenda-driven “research” that cheapens the currency of serious research and supports the arguments for defunding. Of course, the book Professor Bartels cites was not, to the best of my knowledge, funded by the NSF, nor was it written by a political scientist.

      Meanwhile the NSF has been busy funding more consequential research, like the $259,000 being spent to study the role of optimism and pessimism in shaping the political beliefs and behavior of Americans. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be paying for that for generations to come; the mind boggles.

      • Nadia Hassan February 7, 2013 at 4:11 am #

        Talking about the coming generations paying for that over an extended time frame is a bit overwrought when we’re looking at such a tiny fraction of the budget. Even if it didn’t pay for that, the truly scary burden would be left to the future, with respect.

      • Nathan Goldblum February 7, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        Complaining about any piece of research funding, while the US continues to spend heavily on the military and entitlement programs – both fraught with negative externalities – is at best inane.

      • Larry Bartels February 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

        RobC, my point is that political ideologies and policy choices can have significant social consequences, and it is in the public interest for scientists (whether or not they call themselves political scientists) to study those consequences. Do you disagree? If you consider Gilligan’s work “tendentious” and un-serious (despite his substantial scholarly and scientific credentials), what would a serious scientific study of the issues he addresses look like? Or is it simply impossible for you to imagine that we could learn anything from “‘research'” on such controversial issues?
        For what it’s worth, I have seen a good deal of government-funded research. Some of it–not only in political science, and not only from NSF–is agenda-driven (hardly disqualifying), sounds trivial (ditto), or is just not very good. The last,especially, may be an argument for improving how we choose to fund and conduct research, but it is not a good argument for thinking that the research enterprise as a whole does not provide significant social value. That’s true for medical research, and it’s true for research “on social science–including on politics of all things.”

        • RobC February 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

          Professor Bartels, I agree completely that it’s in the public interest for scientists to study the social consequences of political ideologies and policy choices. Implicit in that statement is that scientists should be punctilious about identifying what are actually consequences, with a keen eye to causation, rather than using the trappings of science to score cheap and silly points based on correlation. That’s the problem with Gilligan, and you compound it by making assertions like, “Applying Gilligan’s figures to those baseline levels (and assuming 1% population growth per year) implies a projected total of 213,000 violent deaths over the next four years under a Democratic president, but 236,000 under a Republican—a difference of 23,000 lives.”

          23,000 lives! So precise. So scientific. Such crap.

          Your partisan riff on Gilligan’s partisan claptrap does not invalidate all social science research or suggest that funding of serious social science research is inappropriate. But seeing how unscientific your point is does pretty much invalidate your original comment, which presents your “finding” of 23,000 additional deaths as a reason to support social science research. And I continue to believe that it cheapens the currency of serious science when an esteemed social scientist like you puts lipstick on Gilligan’s pig and tries to sell it as science.

          You should know better.

          • Larry Bartels February 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

            Do you have any idea how much of science is “based on correlation”–or how much we’ve learned from it? You might want to take a look at, say, the first 100 studies of smoking, or lead exposure, or climate change. Assess Gilligan’s analysis with “a keen eye to causation,” by all means, but don’t suppose that either its inferential limitations or the political implications of the findings make it unscientific.

    • Neocon Cowboy February 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Do we count fetuses? Well perhaps for another time.

      I see numerous methodological difficulties with his study, and the compounding factor that his study is obviously agenda driven makes the conclusions about a highly complex causal system dubious at best. So I agree with RobC that it is this sort of partisan “research” that justifies calls for defunding.

      But, more importantly, even on the assumption that his study is sound, and his conclusions correct, it would not support Gilligan’s partisan position. If his numbers are correct, cars cause lots more deaths than Republicans. But presumably we are are willing to accept this social cost for the benefits they bring us. And the Republican will merely argue that liberty, and freedom from government coercion and redistribution are worth the social cost. Yes, you can save lots of lives by making smoking cigs a criminal offense, and banning motorcycles and fast food, but I don’t want to live in a society like that.

  17. George E. Marcus February 7, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    It is, what, 44 years since Donald T. Campbell’s “Reforms as Experiments”‘was published. Our political culture, at the elite level, is quite ignorant, but sadly it doesn’t know that (and we spend so much time decrying the limitations of the public).. Sad.

  18. Neocon Cowboy February 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    The best thing you could do to justify public funding for the social sciences would be to immediately institute an affirmative action program throughout all social science departments to rectify the ideological imbalance of an 11-1 ratio of liberals to conservatives.

    Instead of promoting superficial diversity of skin color, let’s encourage a true diversity of ideas. Why don’t you libs walk the talk of diversity? This would give your fields and research (and teaching frankly) much more legitimacy. Any informed person, every student, every parent of a student, and every republican politician whom you castigate for defunding your projects, knows the social sciences and humanities in today’s universities are little more than liberal propaganda mills.

  19. Bill Gates September 8, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    1. Natural sciences. Experiment based data.

    2. social sciences. study of “””socity”””” fake fake fake fake fake fake.

    society is NOT a science. All material is Free free free free free at public library/public internet.

    Real sciences. physics/chemistry.

    social Fake Fake Fake sciences. F for Fake. these are fake degrees.

    All materials is free free free free at public library/public internet.

    social sciences/humanities/arts: Fake fake fake. F for Fake.

    All materials is Free free free at public library/public internet.

    FREE FREE FREE. no need for college/money for this.

    Free free free/still free free free.