A Note from the Executive Director: Reflection and Resolution

At the end of a calendar year, it’s almost impossible to avoid looking back and thinking forward, so I won’t resist the temptation here.

Recently, we spent time reading and editing papers that compose a forthcoming volume of The ANNALS that gives early evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and social inequities in America. Doing so reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to help shepherd an academic journal that has—for all of its 132 years—prided itself on keeping close to public policy and the well-being of people.

In this forthcoming volume (publishing in a month or two), we find a remarkable collection of papers that demonstrate the resilience of institutions and the creativity of researchers as they responded to the pandemic crisis.  But we also see the extent to which our collective efforts are, for the most part, not able to mitigate “… the complex and profound disproportionate impact of COVID-19 … on people and communities of color. These effects can be described by increased risk, increased vulnerability, increased multiple jeopardy, amplified impacts, and disadvantage in mitigation and support systems” (this quote from Eddie Lawlor’s article that concludes the volume).

Beyond this COVID volume, too, The ANNALS has been remarkably salient of late: in the last 12 months alone, we have published collections of research on homelessness in America, child maltreatment, the socioeconomic condition of the American working class from the Great Recession to the COVID Recession, the social and economic legacies of racial violence in the United States,  and the importance of public investment in Latino children and youth.  All of it strong scholarship and provides invaluable insight.

Proud as I am, though, to have a hand in shepherding this work, I’m continually reminded of extent to which research evidence has very limited sway over public policy.  This circumstance—regrettable in my view—has been reasonably well documented by the social science community itself and it’s been written about here in our Dispatch.  What to do with this state of affairs is very much a work in progress: it will take considerable time for the social science community to develop a robust science of how evidence is used in policymaking, and even longer for the political and social sciences to figure out if the use of science in policymaking results in better public outcomes.

So in 2022, I look forward to working on this problem myself, and to mustering some of the resources of this Academy to address it. In the meantime, you have our very best wishes for the year ahead.

Tom Kecskemethy, AAPSS Executive Director