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					Cultures of Research in Sociology
Preparation for Dean’s Retreat
Department of Sociology
John Boli, Chair
January, 2002

        The core research areas of the Department of Sociology are comparative political
economy and global analysis, stratification and organizations, culture, and social
psychology. We also have specialists in public health and criminology who work from a
social-psychological or stratification/political economy perspective.
        Faculty in the department use a wide variety of approaches in their research, but
one commonality is that virtually all research in the department is theory-driven or
theory-testing. We emphasize theory in our teaching and graduate student training and
faculty research invariably draws on, elaborates, or tests theoretical ideas. By the same
token, almost all our research is also empirical; purely theoretical or metatheoretical work
is rarely produced by the faculty. Methodologically our research is highly diverse. The
more common methods are:
        (a)        statistical analyses using global or national data, regional and state-
                   level statistics, databases on populations of organizations or cultural
                   products, or national survey and crime statistics databases;
        (b)        socio-historical studies based on primary documents and secondary
        (c)        field research, ranging from European and Central American countries
                   to local neighborhoods;
        (d)        primary source document analysis, such as systematic compilation of
                   Internet materials or content analysis of corporation documents; and
        (e)        laboratory experiments studying small-group interaction, status
                   processes, justice issues, and the like.
A good deal of original data collection takes place, though most statistical analysis relies
on publicly available data sets produced by government entities or other researchers.
Many of the projects are supported by external funding, while internal funding is often
sought for the initial phase of research. However, external funding is scarce or
inapporopriate for many of the types of projects unertakin by the faculty.
        Publication styles of the faculty are also diverse. Many of the faculty concentrate
on refereed journal articles, in some cases because their specialty areas are almost
exclusively organized around journals (in social psychology, criminology, some areas in
political sociology, and so on). Other faculty put greater emphasis on books, both
monographs and edited volumes, and most faculty contribute frequently to edited
volumes on topics in their areas. Collaboration within the department is extensive –
faculty work together on projects and most faculty publish with graduate students as well,
a reflection of the close interaction between faculty and graduate students. Many faculty
also collaborate with colleagues at other universities, both in the USA and abroad. With
the exception of our faculty who have joint appointments, however, we engage in only
occasional research collaboration with Emory faculty outside the department.
        The primary public forum in the department for discussion of research and
intellectual topics is our weekly research seminar. Faculty and students present papers in
various stages of development; sometimes the seminars are working sessions to help a
faculty member in the early stage of a project. A widely shared sentiment is that we wish
we had time for more discussion and exchange of ideas, but overall we have a lively and
engaged intellectual environment.

To: Deans Rosemary Magee and Bobby Paul emory college
From: John Boli, Chair, Department of Sociology
Date: 12 December 2001
Re:   Synopsis for Department Planning Process

In response to your memo of 1 November 2001, and as background for the January
retreat and February department planning and budget meeting, I offer the following

1. Departmental strengths and challenges
         The Department of Sociology is strong in all three dimensions of the primary
mission of the College and University. With respect to research, the faculty is highly
productive, creative, and increasingly renowned, and every faculty member has a full and
active research agenda. Faculty publish articles regularly in top-tier journals, many
faculty publish books with high-quality academic or intellectual presses, and several
recent books (by Hicks, Boswell, Boli) have received or been nominated for prestigious
scholarly awards. Our core areas are comparative political economy and global analysis,
stratification and organizations, culture, and social psychology (our subsidiary areas of
public health and criminology are linked to several of the core areas), and we have
excellent faculty in all areas. Graduate students receive extensive training in teaching,
both as teaching assistants and as instructors offering their own courses. The happy
result is that we place all of our new PhD recipients in desirable positions in academia or
research institutions.
         The department’s undergraduate program is also in excellent shape. We have
many talented instructors and a strong teaching reputation, factors that help account for
our having more majors and enrollments relative to the number of faculty than most other
College departments. Our courses are almost always overloaded, our student honors
society (AKD) is thriving, we have extensive faculty-student interaction not only for
formal advising but also for other academic and personal matters, and our internship
program and summer Comparative Health Care program in London are fully subscribed.
         As to service, our faculty has always been extremely active in university and
college committees and councils, in positions ranging from Chair of the college Faculty
council to Co-Chair of the Year of Reconciliation committee to President of the
university Senate and Faculty council (to name but a few of the more demanding posts
held by faculty over the past three years). We serve on College governance committees,
University search committees, ad hoc endeavors like the current commission on Research
at Emory, and son on. If anything, the faculty is overly engaged in service activities.
         I should also mention what has always been a crucial but less visible strength o
the department: our excellent collegial relationships. We have a great deal of cohesion
and many friendships within the faculty, and we have never suffered from the
factionalism or egoism that are common academic scourges. Collegiality is an important
consideration in our faculty searches, beyond the usual criteria of strong research and
teaching credentials or potential.
        The challenges facing the department are several. While the faculty is strong in
our core areas we still have some gaps and unfilled needs (below). The general
availability of funding for sociology is rather limited, particularly at NSF and other
federal agencies (except for research in criminology and health issues), and we do not
generate the level of external grants that we would like. The main challenge, though, is
continuing to build on our existing strength to ensure that our quality and reputation
continue to rise.

2. College priorities and departmental priorities for the next several years
         For the College, the dominant view in the department is that the core units – the
PhD-granting departments – should be the central focus of developmental efforts.
Interdisciplinary and other non-departmental programs and activities can drain away vital
resources, so they must be carefully structured to strengthen departments and help them
make further strides to reach the highest level of excellence. Strong departments make a
strong college and University; in turn, a strong general reputation for Emory attracts
strong students who help make both the undergraduate and graduate programs strong.
Thus, the most useful cross-disciplinary or collective support is that which benefits
departmental development, and the greatest current need in this respect is a social science
research facility that can help with research grants, data management, survey design and
administration, and so on. A secondary but crucial College priority is space, which is
extremely tight in many departments, above all in the social sciences. The only
permanent solution would be construction of a new building, perhaps to house and
consolidate Psychology so the other social science departments could expand into that
space. Third, we feel that general college support for the basic activities of the faculty
should be expanded: ITD should provide technical support for research computing,
research and travel allowances should be increased sharply (they have been stagnant for
at least fifteen years), and office budgets should expand to reflect the increased size of the
faculty in many departments.
         The Department of Sociology is committed to excellence, and our goal is
perennial recognition as one of the top twenty departments in the country. Our priorities
begin with faculty appointments. We need to add a highly visible scholar in political
economy or global analysis to replace a senior professor whose health is declining, and
we want to complement that replacement with another prominent senior member
specialized in one of our core areas and to further strengthen our ties to the schools of
Business and Public Health. Because we must rely on only two professors to teach our
undergraduate and graduate theory courses, one or two of these additional faculty should
be fully qualified to teach theory.
         As with the College, space is another high-priority departmental need. After we
hire a junior faculty member this year in organizations, every office suitable for faculty
will be filled (two of the offices used for faculty are, in fact, only marginally suitable).
Space for graduate students has declined to the point that we have difficulty giving even
students teaching their own courses adequate office space, and our entering students
receive no space at all.
         I should also mention that we need a modest increase in staff support to relieve
the expanding burden on our three office staff. The most sensible approach may be a
half-time bookkeeper who could manage departmental finances and accounting, freeing
up office manager Maggie Stephens for other tasks and redistributing duties between her
and the clerical staff.

3. Required steps and obstacles
        Several steps required to raise the department’s stature further are indicated
above: additional faculty appointments, more office space, and a social science research
faculty that would be developed over the next several years. These steps rely on
expanding resources form the College, though the research facility could be initiated with
the reallocation of existing personnel (from ITD, OSP, and other relevant areas). We
hope to complement such steps, when and as they occur, with a major research training
grant from an outside funding agency. A training grant, along with a general increase in
our external funding, would help us realize a long-sought goal of the department – an
increase in the size of our graduate student cohorts, to eight or nine students per year, to
ensure that we achieve “critical mass” in all of our core research areas and have enough
research and teaching assistants to meet our needs. It would also help the Graduate
School ensure that fifth-year funding becomes a standard feature of our graduate
program, a goal that Dean Wihl has indicated is high on his list of priorities.
        As for obstacles, on the one hand I am inclined to say that the only obstacle is
money, but this is too simple. If our spirit of ambition and opportunity is shared by the
College and University administration, the most serious obstacle is only a practical one –
the scarcity of time and energy available to our busy faculty to pursue our agenda while
meeting the high standards that we, and Emory, set for us.
Boli/Sociology/Dec 2001

       Terry Boswell thoughts on a social science research facility (Nov 2001)

        Concerning staff, we should decentralize OSP and place grant support people in
departmental clusters. These staff would serve the interdisciplinary faculty groups, get to
know faculty interests, and anticipate their grant needs and interests. This should both
smooth the process, which is now quite frustrating, and also increase productivity. A
model for this approach can be found in Public Health. This can be done without any
major increase in funds, which is critically important to getting anything done in the
current budget situation. It is also important to come up with ideas that get the process
started, as some funds will become available as time goes on. This is also something that
should be done as it could be very beneficial and it is something that we can do almost
        We should also provide staff who manage data sets and consult on statistics to the
same interdisciplinary faculty groups of departments (such as Political Science,
Sociology, Educational Studies and the Cultural Anthropologists). Some of this staff
could come form decentralizing existing staff in the library and ITD. Others would have
to be hired but could replace the duties now held by those staff. This idea would also not
cost very much, especially if we mainly used existing personnel. The benefits would
increase, however, as personnel were gradually replaced with more statistically
competent staff.
        A major missing element in improving research and making Emory a top research
university would be a large expansion of the graduate school. This would include more
students, fifth year funding, and other enhancements. This would entail a major increase
in funding, or at least a change in Emory priorities in the way that they allocate the
increases in funds each year. Something that would be less costly that we can do in the
short run would be to decentralize the Woodruff and Minority Awards to the
departmental level. Departments (or at least a departmental cluster) should be able to
count on an award to the top student without the huge bureaucratic hassle that we have to
go through. We waste too much time distributing an extra few thousand dollars. In large
research universities this is a departmental decision.
        One of the reasons Emory faculty spend so much time in committee meetings is
that we make decisions two or three times. Faculty make decisions in the departments,
then faculty make decisions again in committees that span departments. We can greatly
cut down on the time we spend in committees if twie would decentralize decision making
and trust people to make decisions the first time in the departments or in departmental
clusters (of similar size).
        Facilities need to make room for these staff and for an expanding graduate
program that is in close proximity to the faculty. Expanding facilities may seem to be a
prohibitively costly problem, but really we should not let this deter us or let the
administration act as if funds are unavailable for facilities. Buildings are the easiest thing
to raise money for, including renovation of buildings. Again, some decentralization of
fundraising might be the solution. The problem here is not facilities, it is the time it takes
to make them available. We need and interim solution along with a long range plan.

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