University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research.

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University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research.

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University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research.


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Biographical History

The Survey Research Center, forerunner of the Institute for Social Research, was established at the University of Michigan in 1946, under the direction of Rensis Likert, as a center for interdisciplinary research in the social sciences. Fifty years after its founding, the Institute for Social Research (ISR), had become the nation's longest-standing laboratory for interdiscliplinary research in the social sciences. ISR surveys are a national resource and have set the standard for research design across the country. Findings from ISR studies have contributed to policy and practice on issues ranging from racial prejudice and drug abuse to health, retirement and welfare. Largely self-supporting through grants and external contracts, ISR had a budget of approximately $33 million in 1997.

Prior to coming to the University of Michigan, Likert worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture developing a survey facility to provide data on the problems of farmers and their reactions to federal farm policies. During World War II, Likert's survey work expanded to provide data for several federal agencies. The studies were on public finance, morale, and government policies, among other topics. After the war, Likert and others sought a university setting that would provide a facility for large-scale sample survey research and greater opportunities for teaching and research in the social sciences. The University of Michigan was selected and Likert was appointed as director. Likert brought with him Angus Campbell, George Katona, Charles Cannell and Leslie Kish. Initially skeptical of the establishment of a research institute not closely connected with a teaching department, the executive officers of the university stipulated that the Survey Research Center (SRC) was to operate through outside grants. The university would provide office space and general university services. Those working for the Center originally were not eligible for tenure. To promote its interdisciplinary nature, the Center was administratively separate from other schools and colleges and its executive committee was made up of members from a variety of relevant disciplines.

From the outset, Likert and Campbell, working together, provided excellent leadership. Committed to delegation of authority and group involvement in major decisions, Likert promoted the Center's contributions to national life and Campbell provided superior administrative skills. The senior staff met weekly as a group to discuss and decide upon a wide range of issues.

In 1948 the Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD) moved from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where it was founded in February 1945, after the death of its founder Kurt Lewin. Dorwin Cartwright continued as the director of RCGD in its new location. In 1948, an umbrella organization for SRC and RCGD was created and named the Institute of Social Research.

Administratively, ISR is composed of several centers, each strongly autonomous in their research and administration. The development, design, administration and reports of research are center functions. The history of ISR is best understood through each of its research centers. Although the centers have undergone significant change, the core center remains the SRC.

Structurally, the SRC consisted of several research programs as well as four technical sections which were involved in most research projects and conducted their own methodological investigations. The sections included: sampling, field office, coding and computer support group. Sampling selected national household samples and consulted on sample design and other statistical questions with research from ISR, the university and other places outside the university. The field office managed the data collection operations of SRC and provided technical assistance to the research staff in preparing data gathering instruments, developing study designs, and analyzing various modes of data collection. The coding section converted the survey data to numeric codes for use in data processing. The computer support group developed and maintained hardware and software for computerized data processing and analysis.

One of the earliest integrated research programs of SRC was the Economic Behavior Program which was related to economic decisions made by consumers and businessmen. Initially under the direction of George Katona who was trained in economics and psychology, the program included annual national surveys undertaken for the Federal Reserve Board from 1946 to 1971 and the annual Survey of Consumer Attitudes which were conducted from the early 1950s several times a year until they became a monthly survey vehicle in 1978. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics was initiated in 1968. A panel study on consumer's debt behavior, it involved interviewing a national sample of 5,00 families to be followed annually over a five-year period. Continuing to the present day, the study has had significant implications for the study of poverty.

A second major sphere of activity within SRC, initially known as the Human Relations Program, focused on leadership, motivation and organizational structure and effectiveness in formal organizations. Under the direction of Daniel Katz, the program was renamed the Organizational Behavior Program in the late 1950s. It continued through the 1980s and was a national resource for organizational research. New programs in SRC evolved over time. In the late 1950s and early 1960s members of SRC's Organizational Behavior Program and members of the Research Center for Group Dynamics established the Social Environment and Mental Health program. From 1960 to 1970, research in the program focused on the assesment of stress in work settings and the effects on health. By the 1970s, research in the Social Environment and Mental Health unit focused on job-related transitions, the study of social support as a buffer against the effects of stress, and off-the-job factors that enter into the management of stress. In the late 1980s and 1990s the program's focus had extended to assessing the development of intervention programs to alleviate stress and adverse mental health consequences, the role of psychosocial factors in the determination and maintenance of health in middle and older age populations, as well as the source of inequalities in health, especially by race and socioeconomic status. The staff included psychologists, sociologists and epidemiologists with joint appointments in their departments.

A nationwide longitudinal study, "Youth in Transition," was launched in 1965 under the direction of Gerald Bachman to study young men as they entered tenth grade and following them until five years after most had graduated from high school. The study found that the socioeconomic level of a family had the most pervasive influence on a boy's development of any of the background characteristics measured.

A new program within the Youth and Social Issues program, "Monitoring the Future," was launched in 1975 and would sustain funding through the 1990s. "Monitoring the Future" was originally a five-year series of national surveys to collect data on senior classes and the use of drugs. Eighth and tenth graders were added to the survey in 1991 and in 1992 the survey received an $18 million federal grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The survey has had a major impact on national policies on public health and education, especially regarding useof drugs, alcohol and tobacco and helps set the agenda for national drug control policies.

SRC organized a summer session beginning in 1948 to offer courses in survey methods. A special program for training survey sampling statisticians was initiated under the direction of Leslie Kish in the 1960s in conjunction with the summer session.

Another early and continuing interest of SRC was the study of political attitudes and behavior. The first national election study was conducted after the 1948 election and the program expanded into other areas of political behavior. The program became the Center for Political Studies (CPS) in 1970 under the direction of Warren Miller. Research expanded to include political socialization of young adults in the mid-sixties, as well as studies of political structures and comparative politics. Between 1952 and 1976 national studies of the American electorate were conducted in 1948, 1952, 1956 and biennially thereafter. These studies were formalized in 1977 as the National Election Studies (NES) and funded by the National Science Foundation. Established in 1977 through the National Science Foundation, the National Election Study (NES) formally established a national resource to sustain and enhance the diversified data that support basic research on voting behavior and public opinion. By the mid-1980s, most of the senior staff had joint appointments in political science.

The original goals of the RCGD were to conduct research on group behavior and on the relationship of the individual to the group, and to apply its research findings to the solution of social problems. Early projects of RCGD included research on fraternities, communities and schools, and research on group functioning. Research for the Office of Naval Research was conducted on various aspects of leadership and authority in the 1950s. Research on the formal structure of groups received attention in the 1960s. In subsequent decades research included group processes, interpersonal coping and control, and social cognition. By the mid-1980s, the major emphasis in RCGD was on the study of social cognition, the processes whereby individuals deal with information about themselves and others, and how that information enters into social behavior. By the 1980s almost the entire research staff had joint appointments in the social psychology area of the psychology department.

In 1962, in cooperation with twenty-one other universities, the Inter-university Consortium for Political Research (ICPR) was established at ISR. The Consortium's goal was to work toward external collaboration in the area of research on political behavior. The aims of the Consortium included joint planning of new surveys, data gathering and sharing of the common pool of data, as well as coordinating analysis plans to minimize duplication of effort and encourage exchange of current theory and results. After the establishment of CPS in 1970, ICPR was housed within CPS, although decisions about acquisitions are made by the ICPR board. In 1975 the name was changed to Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) reflecting its increasingly multidisciplinary nature. Since its inception ICPSR has maintained an annual summer training program in methods of quantitative political and social research. Courses carry university credit and attract hundreds of research scholars and students each year.

In 1961, Ronald Lippitt and other ISR staff members began exploring the questions concerning knowledge utilization as a coherent and viable domain of inquiry. In the fall of 1962 with the aid of funds provided by the Ford Foundation, Vice President Roger Heyns appointed a university-wide committee to study the need for the development of a new university activity focused on the more effective, practical utilization of scientific knowledge. As a result of the committee's recommendations, the Center for Research on the Utilization of Scientific Knowledge (CRUSK) was established in 1964 as part of ISR. Its charge was to research the processes by which scientific knowledge is disseminated and utilized, bridging the gap between the creation of new knowledge and the use of knowledge. Floyd Mann was the first director of CRUSK. Early work at CRUSK focused on how scientific knowledge and innovations were used by different entities and how other programs generated social research designed to be of use to policy makers. In the first 15 years CRUSK also included action-oriented staff interested in changing organizations. In later years CRUSK research focused on health and education policy. By 1971 CRUSK was at its peak in terms of number of programs and size of staff with seven senior staff. By the mid-1970s much of the staff had left, including Mann and Lippitt. A large component of CRUSK, which had been concerned with making improvements in elementary and secondary education was dispersed. In 1986 with many vacant staff positions and a financial struggle, a decision was made to dissolve the center.

Throughout its history, funding sources and staff compensation have been important issues. In the mid-1960s, research expanded in many different directions and new research techniques were being explored. ISR staff expressed concern regarding the direction of research, fiscal constraints, and the ability to attract new senior staff members. The University of Michigan Board of Regents granted tenure privileges to senior members of the professional staff of ISR on November 15, 1968, although as early as 1952 a report to the president requested tenure be extended to Institute personnel.

By the early 1950s, the staff of ISR had grown from a dozen to over 200. After a series of temporary locations which included the basement of the University Elementary School and space in Old University Hall, ISR moved into its own building on Thompson Street in 1965 with a second wing added in 1976. Construction on a third wing was begun in 1988 and was completed the following year.

Early support from the psychology and sociology departments was important in the decision to establish ISR at the university and ties between those units were strengthened and enlarged over the years. ISR staff have taught in a variety of disciplines including economics, journalism, mathematics, political science, psychology, sociology, education, public health, law, social work, business administration, and engineering. Staff also collaborate with different schools, colleges and departments on various research projects or make available the sampling, coding interviewing and data processing staff. Over the years, ISR members have become increasingly involved in departmental activities.

ISR was characterized in its early years by rapid growth; in the 1950s research volume increased from an annual rate of less than $1 million to about $2 million. Annual volume in the 1960s increased from about $2 million to $7 million, and in the 1970s from about $7 million to $14 million. In 1981, ISR confronted severe revenue losses due to decreased revenue support at the federal level, forcing ISR to look for support from local and state governments and private industry. In 1982/83 the Institute's Computer Service Facility was dismantled and its IBM 360/40 given to the Computing Center, in an effort to reduce administrative and support services. The development of a computer-assisted telephone interviewing and direct-data entry system was developed in the late-1970s at SRC and is still used.

Rensis Likert retired as director of ISR in 1970 and was succeeded by Angus Campbell from 1970 to 1976. Thomas Juster became director in 1976 and completed his second five-year term as director in mid-1986. He returned to the Economic Behavior Program within SRC. Philip Converse assumed the ISR director role in 1986 and stepped down from that position in January 1989. Robert B. Zajonc was director from 1989 to 1994 when Harold K. Jacobson became acting director, in addition to his role as director of CPS. David Featherman assumed the role of director in 1995.

In 1986, at the suggestion of President Shapiro and Vice President Frye, an outside committee was asked to review ISR. Chaired by Professor James Tobin of Yale University, its report made a number of recommendations regarding possible directions and developments, some of which were subsequently implemented. As of 1997, ISR is the nation's longest-standing laboratory for interdisciplinary research in the social sciences. Its professional and administrative staff number over 350 and the research staff represent the disciplines of psychology, political science, economics, and sociology, among others.

1948 1970 Rensis Likert 1970 1976 Angus Campbell 1976 1986 F. Thomas Juster 1986 1989 Philip Converse 1989 1994 Robert B. Zajonc 1994 1995 Harold K. Jacobson (acting) 1995 David L. Featherman 1948 1959 Dorwin Cartwright 1959 1978 Alvin Zander 1979 1982 Philip. Brickman 1982 1989 Robert B. Zajonc 1989 1996 Richard E. Nisbett 1997 James E. Jackson 1962 1970 Warren E. Miller 1970 1971 Samuel Barnes (acting) 1971 1975 Richard. Hofferbert 1975 1991 Jerome Clubb 1991 Richard C. Rockwell 1964 1973 Floyd Mann 1973 1974 Nathan Caplan (acting) 1974 1979 Donald Pelz 1979 1980 David Bowers 1980 1984 Lee Sechrest 1984 1986 Jerome Johnston and Paul Wortman 1970 1981 Warren Miller 1982 1986 Philip Converse 1986 1996 Harold K. Jacobson 1996 William Zimmerman 1946 1948 Rensis Likert 1948 1970 Angus Campbell 1970 1976 Robert Kahn 1976 1982 Stephen Withey 1982 1990 Howard Schuman 1991 James House From the guide to the Institute for Social Research (University of Michigan), records, 1936-1992, 1946-1986, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)



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