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bviously, there is lots for us to do. Equally obviously, we cannot do everything. What should determine which projects the Council should take on? In no case is the answer a matter of obligation to an existing field, whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary. Our obligations are to social science more generally and to the publics which may benefit from social science. In deciding which projects to take on, five tests are basic: . Is the intellectual quality of the project high? . Will success in the project result in substantial improvement in the quality of social science? . Does the project address an issue of public importance? . Is the Council the right organizer for the project? This includes subsidiary tests: a) Does the project depend on bringing together researchers in ways difficult for an individual university or research center to accomplish (e.g., across national or disciplinary lines)? b) Is there enough work going on in the field to make a collective project feasible and not so much that it will happen anyway? c) Can an intervention from the Council bear fruit within a reasonable time frame (normally 3-5 years, though a fruitful project may be extended)? . Is the project likely to attract funding from an appropriate Council partner? Note that immediate practical usefulness is not one of the main criteria. The Council is founded partly on the belief that social science can be useful, and indeed that it is good to guide it in the direction of public contributions. But the SSRC is not an applied research organization. It is part of the scholarly community devoted to the pursuit of basic knowledge about social life. It is through supporting this— and supporting public access to the results of this inquiry––that it achieves its usefulness. There is no great innovation in this list of tests. Two things are worth stressing, however. One is the reliance on the word “project.” The Council takes on projects, not permanent programs. Even long-running programs, like those cen-


tered on fellowship support, must be renewed periodically as projects with specific agendas and finite time-spans. Secondly, the stress falls on intellectual quality and potential achievements.The Council does work to build infrastructure and shore up human capital but its primary emphasis is on the intellectual quality of social science. Back, then, to the issue of identity. It is by our programs that we shall be known. These exist to facilitate collaborative research, to prepare new generations of researchers, to encourage scholarly communication, to promote the internationalization of social science and to foster interdisciplinary linkages.At any one time, the programs will address only a minority of social science concerns and they will never be representative of all of social science. But they will change continually, and they will (we hope) achieve centrality because of the intellectual excitement and connections they generate. n

Craig Calhoun

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Items & Issues Vol. 1 No. 1 (2000)  
Items & Issues Vol. 1 No. 1 (2000)