A few years ago, Tom DiPrete gave a talk at the ASA meetings about the history of the Columbia program. One very interesting section of the talk, in my view, was a description of the social research institute as it was run decades ago. What caught my ear was that the institute took on all kinds of projects from the private sector. That suggested a question: why don’t more sociologists do research based on projects paid for by the private sector?
A few possible answers:
- Soc programs actually do lots of private consulting (e.g., Ron Burt’s data is often drawn from research done for private interests), I just don’t know about it.
- It’s easier to stick to to existing data sets like GSS or Census than take on private projects with uncertain outcomes.
- Private industry doesn’t care for what sociology can offer.
- Private industry doesn’t want to share its data for academic analysis.
- Sociologists are allergic to working with private groups for ideological and/or stylistic reasons.
- This concept simply hasn’t occurred to most sociologists.
- Private groups don’t realize that sociologists can do cool research for them.
- Just added: Conflict of interest.
Any other ideas? Does anyone with experience in consulting care to add something?