Founded in 2009 by merging the Institute for the Study of Social Change and the Survey Research Center, the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) provides an intellectual home for quantitative and qualitative interdisciplinary research on societal issues. ISSI's research mandate is to focus on the wide array of issues that permeate public debate, politics, and policy in societies throughout the world. Attention is given to the multiple ways that the economy; the social divisions of race, class, and gender; and the environment impact various societies. Although a significant amount of the Institute's scholarship is focused on American society, international events and issues that impact American social life, as well as those that impact various other societies, are also studied. A particular focus is placed on the development of innovative methodological tools for conducting social science research. Researchers at the Institute use a variety of methodologies that include survey research, experiments, participant observation, in-depth interviewing, oral histories, and historical archives. There is a continuous effort to develop innovative methodological tools for conducting social science research, and to teach new approaches within these broad methodologies to interested scholars and practitioners.
ISSI realizes this mission by developing new research centers, projects and initiatives and securing extramural funding to support these initiatives; supporting faculty research; building interdisciplinary networks between faculty and graduate student researchers; providing research training to faculty, students, and professionals; providing training, mentoring and professional development to graduate students; disseminating research publications; facilitating graduate student and faculty working groups; and convening colloquia and conferences.
Located in the historic Anna Head complex, ISSI provides offices and shared office space to over 75 affiliated faculty, graduate students, research staff, and visiting scholars from more than a dozen disciplines. Graduate students from across campus, especially those who are engaged in dissertation research, are invited to apply for shared office space on an annual basis. Students from different disciplines who have shared substantive interests are placed together in order to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and enrichment. By having faculty, graduate students, research staff and visiting scholars who are from different disciplines and engaged in research on societal issues all under one roof, ISSI nurtures a lab environment, where informal conversations as well as formal presentations of research spark innovation, new insights, and new avenues of research.
A story about the origins and activities of ISSI, "From cracks in the campus budget, a new research community blooms," is featured in the August 22, 2011, edition of The Berkeleyan. Read the full article.