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2012 Hansen Lecture

Kenneth Prewitt, Columbia University
“Thank you Morris et al., for Westat et al.”

Discussants: Margo Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Dan Gaylin, NORC at the University of Chicago

Abstract: The production of social knowledge is never independent of its institutional base (think monasteries and religious knowledge). In this taslk, I discuss the role of the “Westats” (Westat, NORC, RTI, Abt, Mathematica, etc.) in partnering the expansion of government support for (and influence over) policy and research-relevant survey databases and in facilitating the 1960s arrival of “big social science.” How have—and why it is important that—the contract houses avoided the partisanship now prevalent among think tanks? The answer instructs us in whether social science can engage sites where power roams and yet not compromise the praised principle—“speak truth to power.”