Problem-solving Sociology Grants

Problem-Solving Sociology “Ideas Incubator” Grants: Responding to an Automated World

Key contemporary problems, including rising inequality, a shrinking middle class, falling wages, skills mismatch, and the resulting rise of populism, can be traced at least partially to the same cause: significant and rapid advances in technology and innovation.

Advancements in technology and innovation create productivity gains, lower costs, and more aggregate wealth, but also eliminate the need for, or reduce the value of, some existing employment opportunities. This results in less wealth for segments of the population that have trouble adapting, and causes many problems.

We invite scholars to apply for grants to attend a one-day “ideas incubator” workshop at Northwestern University on November 16, 2017, focused on developing proposals for research projects to answer the following question:

How does society need to adjust to the employment changes that improved and new technologies (artificial intelligence, robotics, etc.) will likely bring over the next twenty years?

We will focus on addressing the following questions:

1)      How to address the loss of middle-class and working-class jobs and skills mismatch caused by rapid advancements in technology and innovation.

2)      How to address the fall in wages in the middle and lower parts of the income distribution, as well as the relative fall in wages in less productive parts of the economy, caused by rapid advancements in technology and innovation.

3)      How to address the rise in casual labor caused by rapid advancements in technology and innovation.

4)      How to address rising inequality caused by rapid advancements in technology and innovation.

5)      How to estimate the potential for significant social disruptions caused by rapid advancements in technology and innovation over the next twenty years.

The workshop will consist of lectures, discussions of readings, and several brainstorming sessions geared to helping participants use sociological theory to shed light on solving these problems, and to use these problems to further sociological theory.  The workshop proceeds from the assumption that mitigating critical social problems can be a catalyst for breakthroughs in the basic understanding of society.

Northwestern University will pay for economy-class airfare and two nights’ accommodation in Evanston, IL, plus meals and transportation expenses, for all invited scholars.  At the end of the workshop, participants will be invited to submit proposals for research grants to further pursue these questions.

To apply, please submit a c.v., a writing sample of your best work to date (not necessarily on this topic), and a one-page explanation of why you want to take part in this workshop by August 15, 2017 to

Scholars at all levels are welcome to apply, but we particularly encourage graduate students in the first three years of their doctoral programs to apply.

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