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Our History

At the core of SPSSI's mission is our desire to bring empirically sound research findings to bear on public policy. This goal is furthered in many ways: We actively engage in the scientific study of human behavior in critical social situations, share the results of our research in scholarly settings, and provide relevant data to the many diverse stakeholders who create public policy at the local, state, national, and international levels. 

SPSSI members are concerned with both U.S. and international issues, and our organization has been affiliated with the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization since 1987. While SPSSI has focused primarily on U.S. policy in the past, our international membership is constantly growing and international issues have become a larger part of our work.

Historically, SPSSI has worked to apply sound scientific research to a wide array of social problems. For example, SPSSI played a crucial role in organizing social science expertise around civil rights litigation in the 1950s. SPSSI is particularly proud of its role in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka (1954). Beginning in 1951, SPSSI's Committee of Intergroup Relations prepared statements for upcoming trials, researched and wrote articles for professional journals, and produced the 1952 Social Science Statement that helped the Brown family and others appeal their case to the Supreme Court. In other more recent work, SPSSI (in collaboration with the American Psychological Association) filed an influential amicus brief in the Michigan affirmative action case, which used psychological research on the value of diversity to advocate for consideration of diversity in admissions decisions. We also submitted a briefing paper to the President's Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies concerning the detrimental effects of the use of torture in interrogation proceedings.

Current Activities

With the help of SPSSI members, SPSSI's leadership regularly issues position statements, public comments, and open letters on a range of social issues and scientific issues. Several times each year, we host Congressional Seminars, bringing renowned scholars to Capitol Hill to provide congressional staffers and other policy professionals with an understanding of the research on timely social issues. We also host annual training and professional development events for our members, including Policy Workshops and Advocacy Days. In collaboration with our members, fellows, interns, and Policy Committee members, we have also created an array of research briefs and fact sheets, and other policy resources.

SPSSI also participates in a number of policy coalitions and consortia, including:

How Can You Get Involved? 

Member communications. SPSSI members are encouraged to read the monthly Policy Update email blast to identify policy-relevant information and opportunities of interest.

Grant funding. SPSSI provides funding for policy-relevant work through Applied Social Issues Internships, Grants-in-Aid, Local- and State-Level Policy Work grants, and SAGES grants.

Fellowships. SPSSI supports the post-doctoral James Marshall Public Policy Fellowship and the pre-doctoral Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Minority Policy Internship to provide public policy experience in Washington, D.C. for qualified applicants. 

Policy Workshops and Advocacy Days. Policy Workshop and Advocacy Days are held one or more times each year in Washington, DC. Each event focuses on a different area of research and policy issue.