IQSS is a University-wide institute located physically and administratively within the FAS. We facilitate the creation, dissemination, and preservation of scientific knowledge about human society, its problems, and their solutions. We support these aims through our highly collaborative environment and the scalable infrastructure we are continually building. IQSS also offers many related services to support faculty, students, staff, and programs across a wide variety of disciplines in all of Harvard's schools.
Our scientific mission is: (1) to create, and make widely accessible, statistical, computational, and analytical tools for the social sciences; and (2) to use these tools for understanding and solving major problems that affect society and the well-being of human populations.
The organizational mission is: (1) to foster interdisciplinary, often large-scale, and highly collaborative projects that cannot readily be accomplished in isolation within the traditional setting of individual departments; and (2) to build a scientific culture where faculty, students, and staff work side by side, not only to solve their own problems in their own disciplines, but also to seek out problems in unrelated or applied areas amenable to the same approach.
What do we mean by Social Science?
We use the term social science to refer to areas of scholarship dedicated to understanding, or improving the well-being of, human populations. Social scientists typically conduct quantitative analysis using data observed at the level of the person or groups of persons, such as countries or areas. The term most commonly is applied to empirical and quantitative areas within academic disciplines in the Faculty of Arts and Science, such as Sociology, Political Science (called Government at Harvard), Economics, Psychology, and Anthropology. The term also is used for quantitative analyses of public policy at the Kennedy School and educational research within the Graduate School of Education. What we call social science is called other things in other areas, but the category is much wider than the term. It includes what the law school faculty calls empirical research, and many aspects of research at the Medical and Business schools. What we call social science includes a large fraction of faculty from the School of Public Health, although they have different names for these activities, such as epidemiology, demography, and outcomes research.