Social science is in tumult. The federal government pays for a shrinking share of research. A replication crisis undermines the validity of many peer-reviewed studies. Public skepticism abounds. Another unsettling force: the rise of private companies like Facebook, which increasingly control essential data about human behavior. Can scholars tap that data to do good? Can they protect privacy at the same time?
These are the kinds of questions Alondra Nelson is trying to answer. Nelson, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, took over in 2017 as president of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), an independent nonprofit group that promotes innovation in scholarship.