MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Center for Independent Social Research

St. Petersburg, | 2009 Award Recipient

Building the field of social policy research in Russia

The social sciences in Russia emerged from the Soviet era far weaker than the natural and physical sciences. Marxist-Leninist ideology had constricted the development of economics, sociology, and political science and isolated them from the intellectual mainstream worldwide. In general, these disciplines lacked the capacity to provide useful analysis as the new Russian Federation underwent sweeping social changes.

The Center for Independent Social Research, founded in 1991, has been at the forefront of equipping Russian social scientists to create an accurate picture of their society. In more than 300 projects and 800 publications, the Center has presented advanced, policy-relevant sociological research on aspects of contemporary Russia ranging from migration, nationalism, and environmentalism to gender studies, housing, and the growth of civil society.

The Center has made a concerted effort to prepare younger scholars for leadership, and attracted research funding from a broad range of sources. Training and mentoring doctoral students and recent graduates, it creates networks of intellectual collaboration. The Center has reached out beyond the St. Petersburg region and helped to incubate other centers of independent sociological research centers, notably the Center for Anthropological Research in Krasnodar and the Center for Independent Social Research and Education in Irkutsk — both of which the MacArthur Foundation has funded.

Until now, Russia has lacked a high-quality peer-reviewed journal and web portal in sociology. The Center is meeting this need through its recently-launched journal Laboratorium.

Russian society is on the verge of far-reaching social reforms in education, pensions, housing, and more. The Center will be able to make a key contribution at a crucial time, assisting policy makers to allocate resources on the basis of sound evidence toward clearly articulated goals.

The Center for Independent Social Research will use its $350,000 award to fund its journal project and to develop a web portal that provides a common discussion space for existing networks of advanced, international social scientists.


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