Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Institute for the Study of Societal IssuesFounded in 2009 by merging the Institute for the Study of Social Change and the Survey Research Center, the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) provides an intellectual home for quantitative and qualitative interdisciplinary research on societal issues. ISSI's research mandate is to focus on the wide array of issues that permeate public debate, politics, and policy in societies throughout the world. Attention is given to the multiple ways that the economy; the social divisions of race, class, and gender; and the environment impact various societies. Although a significant amount of the Institute's scholarship is focused on American society, international events and issues that impact American social life, as well as those that impact various other societies, are also studied. A particular focus is placed on the development of innovative methodological tools for conducting social science research. Researchers at the Institute use a variety of methodologies that include survey research, experiments, participant observation, in-depth interviewing, oral histories, and historical archives. There is a continuous effort to develop innovative methodological tools for conducting social science research, and to teach new approaches within these broad methodologies to interested scholars and practitioners.

ISSI realizes this mission by developing new research centers, projects and initiatives and securing extramural funding to support these initiatives; supporting faculty research; building interdisciplinary networks between faculty and graduate student researchers; providing research training to faculty, students, and professionals; providing training, mentoring and professional development to graduate students; disseminating research publications; facilitating graduate student and faculty working groups; and convening colloquia and conferences. 

Located in the historic Anna Head complex, ISSI provides offices and shared office space to over 75 affiliated faculty, graduate students, research staff, and visiting scholars from more than a dozen disciplines.  Graduate students from across campus, especially those who are engaged in dissertation research, are invited to apply for shared office space on an annual basis.  Students from different disciplines who have shared substantive interests are placed together in order to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and enrichment.  By having faculty, graduate students, research staff and visiting scholars who are from different disciplines and engaged in research on societal issues all under one roof, ISSI nurtures a lab environment, where informal conversations as well as formal presentations of research spark innovation, new insights, and new avenues of research.

Research Programs

ISSI has seven centers that initiate multidisciplinary research projects in addition to a variety of other activities including the development of research monographs, colloquia and conferences, and training workshops. Descriptions of current research projects can be found on each Center’s website.

  • Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies encourages and nurtures comparative scholarship on right-wing movements both in the US and abroad during the 20th and 21st centuries. The center promotes research, publishes research findings, supports graduate and undergraduate training, and sponsors conferences, colloquia and other public events that bring together leading scholars to share new research and engage in interdisciplinary dialog related to this field of study.
  • Berkeley Center for Social Medicine engages the intersection of social systems, social difference, health and health care in the United States and across the globe.  The Center links to the discipline of social medicine internationally by bringing together Bay Area scholars from the social and historical sciences who are working on questions related to medicine, the health sciences, public health, global health, the social structuring of suffering, violence and the body.  The Center promotes research, multidisciplinary writing projects, graduate and undergraduate training, as well as conferences, colloquia and other events that engage broad publics.
  • Center for Ethnographic Research is devoted to research involving direct observation of social interaction in urban areas. Research using the three traditions of direct observation (positivist, symbolic interaction, and ethnomethodology) are represented within the center. Current projects include violence in schools, work strategies among poor youth in Iran and Morocco, sacrifice among US armed service families, health behavior among the elderly poor, Palestinians in refugees camps, and the influence of ethnicity and religion on Arab American business networks. 
  • Latinx Research Center (formerly Center for Latino Policy Research) promotes interdisciplinary knowledge across the humanities, social sciences, science and technology.  The "x" in the name marks the non-binary of sexual and gender diversity and development, as well as the unknown which is yet to be mapped about the understudied and rapidly growing and transforming Latinx transnational communities. 
  • Center for Research on Social Change  develops interdisciplinary research initiatives that examine the factors promoting and inhibiting social change in the United States and abroad. A major focus of the Center is how immigration, globalization, economic restructuring, and development of new technologies have shaped and changed the structure and culture of various spheres within societies throughout the world.
  • Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues  provides the people of Indian country with pragmatic research products that can be employed to improve the quality of life on Indian reservations across the U.S. The Center fulfills this mission by engaging in collaborative research projects, providing technical assistance and training; and sponsoring colloquia and other events open to the public on issues of concern to Native communities.
  • Asian American Research Center is a preeminent research center for the study of Asian Americans/Asian diasporas in national, hemispheric, and global contexts. It brings together a vibrant, innovative, and dynamic assemblage of scholars, researchers, policy-makers, community organizers, and cultural producers to address a multiplicity of interests and concerns. Launched in 2020, the Center works to raise public awareness of Asian American/diaspora issues and advance cutting-edge research, develop innovative curricula, and promote community-campus engagement.


People sitting at table for group training session.ISSI provides a wide range of training for undergraduate and graduate students at the University. ISSI offers undergraduate research internships through the Undergraduate Researcher Apprentice Program, the Summer Ethnographic Research Workshop, graduate student research opportunities on select projects, and the Graduate Fellows Program, which, for more than thirty years, has provided an interdisciplinary research and training environment as a complement to graduate programs in the social sciences and professional schools. ISSI also provides training for professionals in the academy, government, and private sector by offering workshops on research methods and museum skills.


ISSI logo
Staff contact
Mailing address

2420 Bowditch Street #5670, Berkeley, CA 94720 - 5670

In News

Biden must mount campaign against right-wing extremists, says Berkeley expert

Americans, and people across the world, watched in shock and alarm yesterday as hundreds of right-wing extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the Electoral College votes that produced a victory for Democrat Joe Biden and a defeat for President Donald Trump. But no one should have been surprised, says Lawrence Rosenthal, head of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at UC Berkeley.