Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
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November 1, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) -- Immigration, the 2000 election and the impact on social scientists of new guidelines for medical research will be among the topics discussed as the Social Science History Association holds its 26th annual meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago Nov. 15-18.

Nearly 170 different sessions will be held that focus on 16 broad categories, including criminal justice, culture, economics, education, demography, labor, politics, race and gender, religion, rural life and urban affairs.

Research to be presented at the conference includes a study of Harvard and Yale graduates from 1890-1990, a study of genetic testing from 1960-1995 and a study of the Vieques, Puerto Rico bombing range in the context of major U.S. weapons ranges.

Caroline Brettell, chair of the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University and president of the SSHA, will chair a Saturday afternoon workshop on “Human Subjects and Institutional Review: Implications for Historical and Social Science Research.”

In recent years, there has been increased pressure on universities to tighten supervision over human subjects used in research. Much of this pressure results from several high-profile deaths at academic medical institutions.

The National Institutes of Health now requires that all researchers at universities with government funding follow its guidelines, even researchers who receive no funding from the NIH. NIH guidelines require that protocols for ethical treatment of human subjects be reviewed by an independent body known as an institutional review board before the research can begin.

As a result, proposals for social science research such as oral history projects have to go before institutional review boards, which have traditionally been comprised of medical and behavioral scientists rather than people familiar with methods of historical research. Social science researchers say these new guidelines could have a chilling effect on their research.

“Applying medical criteria to softer sciences where the risk is minimal is like applying apples to oranges,” Brettell said.

Panelists for the workshop will include John Craig and Barbara Schneider from the University of Chicago, Myron Gutmann from the University of Michigan and Linda Shopes from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Several conference speakers will focus on topics related to the history of Chicago, including Al Capone, the Chicago Milk Commission, Chicago’s black renaissance and the women’s movement in Chicago from 1965-1968.

A Saturday afternoon panel discussion about politics will be devoted to the topic “A New Chicago Emerges?” Panelists include Terry Nichols Clark and Kenneth Wong from the University of Chicago, Larry Bennett from DePaul University and Dick Simpson from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Several representatives from the Cook County Government and the U.S. Census Bureau -- Chicago Region will participate in a Thursday afternoon session on the Census 2000.

The conference also will include a 30-year retrospective of the Newberry Summer Institutes, as well as a session that will discuss Chicago’s Hull House and other reform initiatives of the Progressive Era.

The Social Science History Association is the leading interdisciplinary association for historical research. It currently has more than 1,000 members from around the world. Association meetings provide one of the few forums for social science researchers from different fields to get together and discuss issues of mutual interest.

The complete program for the conference can be found online at