Director's Corner: A Field Note on Social Science Communication

Earlier this month, the Academy hosted a small event in Washington, DC, that got me thinking a little bit differently about AAPSS’s unique capacity and our role among institutions and not-for-profits interested in advancing science in the public sphere. It was a small, intimate dinner that we hosted for senior reporters and editors covering the 2016 presidential race—getting them together with several of the authors who contributed to our September ANNALS volume on Elections in America.
We figured that thoughtful and experienced journalists might be interested in kicking around ideas with some of the nation’s leading scholars on electoral politics and public opinion. Conversely, we thought that some of the accomplished scientists we had published would be interested in hearing perspectives on their work from journalists who spend their time every day in the trenches of campaigns and swimming in the waters of public perception.
Suffice it to say that the evening was a success—there was stimulating and even challenging conversation, new professional networks forged, and there was learning all around that was appreciative of others’ perspectives and knowledge. It was the kind of conversation that couldn’t be had in a room too large, and the kind of thoughtful connections that couldn’t be built in a session too short. I was very pleased that AAPSS was the convener and broker of such an evening.
More broadly, though, the experience drove home in a very practical way some of the most salient points about science communication that I read in a recent book by our new Board member, Skip Lupia: that the value of information is contingent upon how it can be used; that complex information requires adequate framing to be valuable to others; and that for our own professional competency to be improved, we need to be aware of the knowledge needs of others. 
Doing the work of science communication well is nuanced, complicated, and difficult but enormously rewarding. I’m looking forward to discovering more and better pathways to effectively communicating our work to audiences that are important to this Academy.


Alan Krueger Named 2017 Moynihan Prize Recipient

AAPSS is pleased to announce economist and Princeton Professor Alan Krueger as the winner of the 2017 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize.

AAPSS President Ken Prewitt said of Krueger, “[he] is a gifted scholar, policy influential, and public servant, and a most worthy recipient of an award celebrating Moynihan’s dedication to bringing the highest quality research available to bear on policy design and implementation. In these political times, the AAPSS doubles-down on Moynihan’s legacy, electing Fellows and awarding the Moynihan Prize to those whose engagement contributes in equal measure to better science and more sound policy.”

Professor Krueger was Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a Member of his Cabinet from November 2011 to August 2013. He also served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2009–10, and as Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor in 1994–95. Since 1987, he has held a joint appointment in the Economics Department and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He is the founding Director of Princeton’s Survey Research Center and currently the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy. He earned his PhD from Harvard University in 1987.

Professor Krueger will formally accept the Moynihan Prize on Capitol Hill on May 18, 2017, where he will give a lecture that focuses on the economics of alternative work arrangements and what politicians and public policy-makers can do to support that significant and growing segment of the American workforce.

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Academy Hosts Conference on Student Loan Debt Crisis

Laura Perna of PENN AHEAD addresses the student debt conference.

On August 25 and 26, the AAPSS collaborated with Penn’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) for an ANNALS conference on student loan debt.  The conference kicked off with a symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and covered the implications of student loan debt on socioeconomic status and mobility. More than sixty people, including some of the volume’s contributors, met at the Annenberg Public Policy Center to discuss the outcomes and realities of the nation’s student loan debt problem. 
In a “who borrows and why?” session, working papers addressed topics such as whether student loan debt deters participation in higher education and how student loan debt impacts first-generation college students. Who repays student loans and the implications for federal policy as well as student borrowing for community college were some of the topics discussed during the following session on the consequences of borrowing. In the final session on federal policy, contributors addressed how public policy has contributed to the student loan crisis and what options for loan forgiveness programs might contribute to economic and social betterment.
The ANNALS volume, due out in May 2017, will be edited by Laura Perna of the University of Pennsylvania and Nicholas Hillman of the University of Wisconsin. The conference was jointly sponsored by the AAPSS, Penn AHEAD, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, The Spencer Foundation, and the Wisconsin Center for Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE). 

New Rural-Urban Interface at Center of ANNALS Conference

Dan Lichter, Director of the Institute for the Social Sciences at Cornell University, addresses the audience. (Photo by Jeremy Quattlebaum)

The Academy held another ANNALS conference on September 29 and 30 on the new rural-urban interface. Twenty-five scholars discussed papers that will be published in the July 2017 ANNALS. Special volume editors Dan Lichter of Cornell University and James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky convened the meeting.
Through the conference and eventual ANNALS volume, which will publish much of the work presented there, Drs. Lichter and Ziliak aimed to create on opportunity for scholars to examine the cultural, demographic, economic, and political dimensions of the changing rural-urban landscape. Accordingly, conference attendees were treated to work that included an examination of trends in neighborhood quality within cities, suburbs, and rural areas; investigation of voting and political attitudes along the urban-rural continuum and whether demographics can consistently predict voting behavior; and fieldwork from the Atlanta suburbs that shows the ways in which urban, suburban, and rural boundaries can blur.
The conference was co-sponsored by the AAPSS, Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences, the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research, and the Finger Lakes branch of Scholars Strategy Network.

AAPSS and MEI Host Panel Discussion on Terrorism and the Next President

Richard A. Clarke answers a question at a panel on the November 2016 ANNALS volume. (Photo courtesy of MEI)

On October 24, 2016, The Academy and the Middle East Institute hosted a panel discussion with special editors of the November 2016 volume of The ANNALS —Rand Beers, Paul Salem, Richard Clarke, and Emilian Papadopoulos—which focused on what national security challenges, especially with regard to terrorism, the next administration will have to address. Mary Louise Kelly, national security correspondent for NPR, moderated the discussion.

Asking how we define the threat we face today and how we define victory against those threats, Kelly noted that “We are living in a very different world than we were eight years ago.”  A common thread in the panel’s responses was “nonstate actors." “You cannot balance nonstate actors,” said Salem, discussing how the many challenges that the Middle East faces, from economic to demographic, fuel proxy wars that are difficult to anticipate and hard to quickly respond to. 

When asked whether we will still be talking about ISIL in four or eight years, Beers responded that the United States “has to face that ISIL is a serious player abroad and at home,” noting that in the last year alone we have had an increase in the number of mass casualty events on U.S. soil that seem to be inspired by ISIL. Clarke responded that ISIL and al-Qaeda will compete for the status of “biggest threat to America,” but that he doesn’t see new organizations developing that the U.S. will have to defeat. 

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America’s 45th president will face a multitude of challenges, including the security of the nation and its people. Terrorism, specifically violent Islamist extremism, is ravaging the Middle East while having repercussions here in the United States and the world. The November 2016 volume of The ANNALS delves into the issue of terrorism and offers direction and guidance to the next president and administration for countering violent extremism (CVE).
Special editors Rand Beers, Richard A. Clarke, Emilian Papadopoulos, and Paul Salem gathered world-renouned scholars and practitioners to explore the failing states of the Middle East, including the collapse of the socioeconomic and political systems there, as well as the alienation of Muslims in Western Europe and elsewhere. The volume also offers courses of action for the next president to take against terrorism. The final section delves into the practice of CVE as a growing and promising discipline and practice. 

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Call for 2018 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize Nominations

We are accepting nominations for the 2018 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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