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Center creates programs for social research

Carly Landon | Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Center for Social Research (CSR) — located in Flanner Hall — is a new center that aims to help University faculty, students and staff of all disciplines conduct research on social questions. 

“Our Center strives to improve the quality and efficiency of social research at Notre Dame,” CSR director Christian Smith said. “As a University-wide resource, the CSR supports all faculty, students and staff who conduct social research across the schools, colleges and academic disciplines.”

According to Smith, a group of Notre Dame faculty and students saw many other top research universities already have social research programs in place. 

They created a proposal and brought it to the Strategic Academic Planning Committee. Seeing the value in providing this crucial research infrastructure, the Committee approved the proposal and the Center for Social Research began.

“Faculty and students use a host of tools to gather and analyze the data on which they build their social research projects,” Smith said. “The Center for Social Research was founded with these scholars and their research needs in mind. Its expert staff can assist with the entire process, from research design to datasets acquisition and management, statistical problem solving, and grant budget administration.”

The Center assists research projects throughout their life cycle — from the grant proposal to final publication. It offers four core services to faculty and students: statistical consulting, survey research, data management and grant administration.

“We want to be a resource of first resort for all social researchers,” CSR associate director Kate Mueller said. “If your inquiry is something we can’t handle, we will do our best to refer you to other resources within or external to the University.”

Smith spoke on his goals for the Center in its first year at the University, listing assisting researchers as his top goal.

“My main goal for the year is for the CSR to increasingly partner with additional faculty, students and staff to support their research,” Smith said. “Sometimes, social researchers need help with research design, statistical analysis, survey implementation or other Research that require particular expertise or attention.”

Michael Clark, the CSR Statistical Consultant, offered an “Introduction to R” course. Wednesday night. This is a short non-credit course designed to aid faculty and students in learning to use the various statistical computing programs that the Center offers. It will be held again April 15.

In the future, the CSR plans to grow its resources for students.

“Over time, we plan to expand the spectrum of non-credit short courses offered. We are also in the process of hiring even more staff with different sets of expertise, such as survey research design,” Smith said.