Social Science Research Center (MSU)

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The Social Science Research Center (SSRC) was officially established at Mississippi State University in 1950 to promote, enhance and facilitate social science research and related scholarly activities. The Center is organized with university-wide responsibilities and is under the supervision of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Vice President for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.[1]

The Center offers a research environment with an array of research opportunities and options, facilities, laboratories and support units that expand both the scope and quality of social science research. It fosters a rigorous and independent research environment to ensure objective, relevant and unbiased analyses.


Early History: 1950s-1990s

Officially established in 1950, the Social Science Research Center operated under the leadership of Dr. John K. Bettersworth, a historian. In its first decade, the Center would best be described as a coalition of faculty members interested in promoting the social sciences defined in the broadest possible terms. Its mission was to coordinate the activities of the social science departments in the School of Business and Industry, to stimulate cooperation among those in allied fields and in neighboring institutions, and to encourage the development of new research initiatives.

Armed with experience of projects funded in 1952, one by the General Education Board, a Rockefeller Philanthropy,[2] for a five-year grant to develop a research and training program in political and social psychology and one by TVA for exploratory research in community studies, the Center actively sought extramural funding to support its research efforts.

By the mid-1960s, the SSRC had further clarified its objectives. The first was to plan, secure funding, and conduct research projects of “strategic importance” to the university. The other was to promote communication and research planning among social scientists on campus, thereby improving the scholarly atmosphere.

By 1964, funded projects in alcohol education, forest fire prevention, mental health planning, and regional development were added to the list. Soon the extramural income from these grants well exceeded the state appropriated funding for the Center.

In the early 1970s, during a period of retrenchment, much discussion revolved around the question of whether the Center should continue to exist. In the end, President William L. Giles, in June 1973, approved the recommendation of Dr. J. Chester McKee, then Vice President of Research and Dean of the Graduate School, that not only should the Center continue, it should broaden its scope to become a truly interdisciplinary research operation.[3]

By the early 1980s, however, the relevance and interests of the Center had shrunk to such a state that administration seriously considered disbanding the unit. The appointment of Cosby as Director in 1985 brought a turnaround for the Center.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the Center expanded its interdisciplinary focus to include off-campus partnerships. As the 2004 Mississippi State University Governance Document indicated, members of the SSRC are convinced that “Research issues facing social scientists are now so profoundly complex that their solutions demand the combined resources of multiple disciplines, multiple professions, and multiple institutions.” [4]

In keeping with this, the Center has formed partnerships, strategic alliances, and collaborative agreements with entities such as state agencies, off-campus national-level research organizations, and professional groups in order to facilitate its research and service endeavors.

Recent History: 2000s-Present

The year 2000 marked a turning point for the Social Science Research Center. With the establishment of the Rural Health, Safety, and Security Institute (funded by a grant from the Office of Rural Health Policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) the research staff and a number of research faculty from a variety of academic departments concentrated their attention on rural health and safety issues.[5]

The Center has also embraced international collaborations. This began with an Italian exchange program that has grown into a formal educational experience on social science methods between students and faculty of Mississippi State University and the University of Catania.[6] Recently, a delegation from Croatia participated in a similar endeavor at the Center, and collaborative negotiations with a Mexican university are on-going.

Sixty years after its founding, social scientists continue to work together to address social problems and research issues, to train students in research methods, and to contribute to the scholarly atmosphere of Mississippi State University.[7]

Current Facilities

The SSRC is currently located in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.[8][9] The SSRC has a branch office focusing on policy research located at the CAVS E building located in Canton near Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to the core space at CAVS E, the SSRC has access to conference and meeting facilities.[10]

The Center is home to many programs and laboratories that focuses primarily on health, safety, and well being research. These are:

  • The Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory
  • Media Collaboration Laboratory
  • Public Safety Data Laboratory
  • Innovative Data Laboratory
  • J.W. Landrum Observational Laboratory
  • Northeast Mississippi Area Health Education
  • Traffic Safety
  • Mississippi Health Policy Research Center
  • Mississippi KIDS Count
  • Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program
  • Tobacco Control Unit
  • Crime and Justice Research Unit
  • Freshmen Retention Project
  • Family and Children Research Unit
  • Facilitation for Advanced Collaborative Solutions

Past Directors

  • Dr. John K Bettersworth (1950–1960)
  • Dr. Harold K. Kaufman (1960–1969)
  • Dr. Kenneth P. Wilkson (1969–1970)
  • Dr. Andrew W. Baird (1970–1973)
  • Dr. Gerald O. Windham (1973–1985)

Current Director

Arthur G. Cosby has served as the Director and Research Fellow at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) since 1985. He is also a William L. Giles Distinguished Professor,[11] as well as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His research applies social science knowledge to real-world problems such as health, poverty, career development, racial disparities, tobacco control, families/children and policy studies.

“The Center, from its very origins over sixty years ago, has emphasized interdisciplinary research. It has been a place where scientists from a number of disciplines, both on campus and, importantly, from other institutions can come together to work on common research problems,” [12] said Cosby.

Mission and Goals

Mission Statement

The mission of the Social Science Research Center is to conduct research on social, economic, political, human resource and social-environmental problems facing the state, nation and world; to provide a support system for the university to plan, develop, secure funding for and conduct social research on problems of interest to the scientific community and to consumers of research findings; to provide a mechanism whereby existing social science research capabilities in the university can be matched with funding sources; to contribute to the university’s graduate and undergraduate program by involving students in research projects through assistantships and other work arrangements; and to provide a vehicle for unique social research and public service programs that do not fit more traditional academic structures. The Center also recognizes as part of its mission the importance of combining expertise and capacities of multiple institutions, disciplines and professions in addressing complex problems. The Center seeks to develop perspectives and approaches that lead to effective cooperative investigations.[13]


Academic Goals:

  • To contribute to the University’s graduate and undergraduate program by involving students in research projects though assistantships and other work arrangements.

Research Goals:

Service Goals:

  • To provide a support system for the university to plan, develop, secure funding for and conduct social research on problems of interest to the scientific community and to consumers or research findings.
  • To provide a mechanism whereby existing social science research capabilities in the University can be matched with funding sources.

Research Fellows

The SSRC seeks to expand its research fellows program in both its traditional disciplinary arenas of sociology, psychology, political science, geography and social work, as well as in new areas that include anthropology, architecture, communication, economics, epidemiology, health education, health policy and other social science related disciplines. The Center offers this honorary title to individuals who have made significant impacts on its research programs. Research Fellows may work in the Center or in outside collaborative entities.

Center Facts

  • The Survey Research Unit, which initially recorded phone interviews with pencil and paper, was started in 1982 and was originally located on campus in Bowen Hall.[14]
  • The SSRC traces its roots back to the mid-1940s when diverse faculty members met at informal, Dutch-treat dinners to discuss social science topics and explore potential collaborative activities.

External links


  1. Social Science Research Center (2011). “Inquiry Leads to Impact” p. 2.
  2. Retrieved on 2012-05-07.
  3. Brenda Trigg, Mississippi State University Foundation Inc., “125 Years at Mississippi State University: A Pictorial History of the People’s University” (2003), p. 117.
  4. Social Science Research Center, Intranet “Governance Document of the Social Science Research Center.” Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  5. United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Health, Safety, and Security Institute Project. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  6. Francesco Coniglione Retrieved on 2012-05-08.
  7. "MSU research center reaches 60-year milestone." Retrieved on 2012-05-08.
  9. "Zoning Map"
  10. Social Science Research Center (2011). “2011 Annual Report” p. 2.
  12. Social Science Research Center (2010). “Social Science Research Center: Sixty Years of Commitment to Innovation and Excellence” p. 3.
  14. Social Science Research Center (2010). “2010 Annual Report” p. 27.