The California State University Social Science Research and Instructional Center provides:
- Support for CSU student, faculty, and staff users of subscription data bases from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the Field Poll, and the Roper Center, as well as of unrestricted data bases.
- Workshops on use of these data, as well as on SPSS, SDA, GIS, and other topics as needed. Provided at no cost to CSU campuses. Other institutions: please contact us for more information.
- The annual SSRIC Student Research Conference. Open to undergraduate and graduate students at CSU and to students at community colleges.
- Research and training opportunities through the Field Poll Faculty Fellowship and Question Credit programs and the ICPSR Summer Training Program.
- Value-added teaching resources, including modules, exercises, and online textbooks. Most of these materials are freely available.
Governance: Overseeing the Center is the Social Science Research and Instructional Council. Founded in 1972, the Council is the oldest of the disciplinary councils in the California State University system. With representatives from each of the CSU campuses, the Council is dedicated to assisting students and faculty in their learning, teaching, and research by:
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- providing a forum for sharing information about social science data and computer products;
- initiating and conducting training programs;
- recommending computerized social science projects in the CSU curriculum;
- encouraging the collection and distribution of social science data and computer-related instructional and research materials; and
- advising CSU administrators on policies related to providing quantitative social science data for research and instruction.
The original focus of the Council was to oversee the CSU’s membership in the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), which was and remains the world’s premier social science data archive. Today, in addition to the ICPSR, the Council oversees CSU licensing agreements with The Field Institute (which conducts the California Poll), and the Roper Center for Opinion Research. The Council provides a number of value-added services. These include:
- workshops for faculty, presented by Council members. Currently, workshops are available on use of data bases and on SPSS (a statistical software package) at both the introductory and intermediate levels.
- an annual Student Research Conference at which both undergraduate and graduate students present their work in a setting patterned after that of a professional conference. The 30th annual Student Research Conference was held at CSU, Northridge on May 4.
- assistance to faculty and advanced graduate students wishing to attend the ICPSR Summer Program.
- selection of faculty research proposals to include questions on the California Poll.
- participation in the governance of the ICPSR. Over the years, four SSRIC representatives have served on the ICPSR’s Council. SSRIC representatives also participate at the ICPSR’s biennial Official Representatives (ORs) meeting. Ed Nelson (Fresno) was recently selected for an ICPSR Flanigan Award in recognition of his contributions as an OR. Lori Weber (Chico) has been selected for an OR sabbatical fellowship at the ICPSR headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the summer of 2006.
- the Teaching Resources Depository (TRD). The TRD includes instructional modules and exercises, an SPSS tutorial, a Website for introductory research methods courses in political science, and various other curricular materials.
- this Website.
The Council plans to build on these successes by launching new initiatives. Among those under consideration are:
- creation of an online student journal.
- sponsorship of additional materials for the TRD, including awards of honoraria to faculty producing new instructional modules.
- acquisition of a license to create instructional datasets in SDA (Survey Documentation and Analysis) format.
The History of the SSRIC
The California State University Social Sciences Research and Instructional Council (SSRIC) began in 1972as the California State University Social Sciences Research Council, which was an advisory group to the Office of Information Resources and Telecommunications at the Chancellor’s Office. The goal of the Council was to promote quantitative analysis in the social sciences. The Council was made up of one representative from each campus. In the beginning, most of the representatives to the Council were political scientists, but later it came to include sociologists, economists, historians, geographers, and public policy analysts. The CSU belonged to the Inter-university Consortium for Political Research (ICPR) that provided access to national data, and the SSRC served as the CSU representative to it.
An important function of the SSRIC has been to provide support for faculty and student use of social-science data. Data bases for social science research were supported by the Chancellor’s office until the Social Science Data Base Archive at California State University, Los Angeles was formed in 1991. By 2004-05 changes in data access and retrieval made it possible for the SSRIC to provide the access to and support for them at lower cost. (During 2004-05 six faculty workshops on the use of the data and teaching materials were held.) The data bases include data from:
- The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan
- The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, and
- The Field Institute-California Field Poll in San Francisco, California
One of the goals of the Council was to teach social-science faculty the basics of the most up-to-date technology for data analysis with empirical data. This began with workshops training faculty to use the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) on the PC. Summer workshops for CSU faculty were held in 1983 and 1985 in San Luis Obispo and 1989, 1994, and 1996 in Fresno.
An ongoing emphasis of the Council has been the development of instructional materials using computer-based data for social science courses. In 1985 the Council received a grant from the Chancellor’s Office to develop a series of modules for use in social science courses. (At that time The ICPSR science had instructional materials called SETUPS for analyzing data, but most of those had not been kept up to date.) The Social Science Instructions Modules were small books with chapters on social-science content particularly relevant for teaching in California, for example, women’s issues, AIDS and tolerance, crime, student attitudes and behavior, immigration. Each module also included a section on beginning research methods including survey research, sampling, concepts, measures frequencies, percent distributions, dependent and independent variables, crosstabulation, and statistics for analysis; as well as data sets with exercises for student analysis. The authors trained faculty to use these materials. Ed Nelson, Jim Ross, Dick Shaffer, and Elizabeth Nelson presented a workshop on the modules at the CSU Teaching and Learning Exchange in February 1992. The Nelsons obtained a dissemination grant from the Fresno to offer workshops on campuses on using the modules [date?]. Ed & Jim and Liz did a presentation at WSSA early on with borrowed computers. [date?] Presentations were also made at various professional meetings.
As SPSS became available for Windows on the PC, several members of the Council developed beginning instructional materials starting with SPSS for Windows Version 6: A Basic Tutorial by Nan Chico, John Korey, Edward Nelson, Elizabeth Nelson, James Ross, and Richard Schaffer (McGraw Hill, 1997). The most recent edition is SPSS for Windows Version 13: A Basic Tutorial (McGraw Hill, 2005) by Linda Fiddler, Laura Hecht, Edward Nelson, Elizabeth Nelson, and James Ross.
SSRIC members continue to develop empirically-based instructional materials for use in their own classes, sharing them with one another and making them available to other faculty. In 1997-98, the SSRIC obtained funding from the CSU Academic Opportunity Fund to develop a social-science teaching resources depository on the internet to house instructional materials and data sets that could be downloaded and used in classes. The website included:
- Modules---self-contained units focused around a data base for student analysis. (Topics include opinions on women’s issues, opinions on social issues, standard cross-cultural data from the famous anthropological studies, a beginning course in macroeconomics, representation in the California State Legislature, and an intermediate-level course on census data)
- Exercises with data sets for analysis
- Glossary of terms for social science, research methods, and SPSS
- Latest version of the SPSS primer
These resources complement in-class or distance instruction in a variety of social science disciplines. Beginning in the fall of 2005, San Francisco State University will host the SSRIC web site and the Teaching Resources Depository at http://www.ssric.org/. Council members demonstrated these materials at the California Sociological Association meetings in October 1999 and at the Western Social Sciences Association meetings in April, 2000.
As part of the emphasis on empirical research in the social sciences, the SSRIC sponsors a student research conference for undergraduate and graduate students each spring. [When did this start?] Thirty-one students from 15 campuses presented their research at the most recent conference held in Fresno in 2005. The 2006 conference will be in Northridge may 3, 2006.
The SSRIC has been involved in several related projects to increase the use of instructional materials. In the summer of 2000, Ed Nelson, Jim Ross, Nan Chico, and Elizabeth Nelson received an award from the American Sociological Association’s Teaching Endowment Fund to present workshops for college and university faculty in California. These were held in Los Angeles and Hayward in June focusing on on-line data analysis for classroom instruction with materials from the Teaching Resources Depository and the Survey Documentation and Analysis resources developed by UC Berkeley. This involved special outreach to community-college teachers and emphasized resources that did not require SPSS or other statistical software. In 2000-01 the sociology departments at CSU Bakersfield and CSU Fresno collaborated on an information competency project that developed instructional materials to teach information competency with research-based quantitative skills. These materials were also put on the Teaching Resources Depository so all faculty could access them and were presented at the California Sociological Association in 2002. The Nelsons presented "Teaching Critical Thinking Using Quantitative Data Analysis," at the California Sociological Association meetings in October, 1999 and "Critical Thinking Using SSDBA and TRD" at the Sixth California State University Symposium on University Teaching, February, 2000 at CSU San Marcos.
Last Modified: May 25, 2007