Managing a Matrix: The Development of Interdisciplinary Social Science at the RAND Corporation, 1946-1957

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From 1946 through 1957, the RAND Corporation—an emerging type of public policy research institute—gained organizational independence from its parent organizations, Douglas Aircraft and the US Air Force; in this time, actors within the Corporation developed a plan for policy research that included a range of disciplines, from Psychology to Political Science to Physics and Mathematics. An integral part of this expansion, and RAND’s increased ability to procure research contracts, was the corporation’s integration of knowledge production practices in an "interdisciplinary" fashion. I want to suggest that the particular type of interdisciplinary research that occurred at RAND, under the auspices of charismatic team leaders and often under the rubric of systems analysis, developed in part because of RAND's increasing organizational independence and its need to market its research to an audience of increasingly organizationally diverse public policymakers. After analyzing historical data on RAND’s design and programs of research as well as the networks of experts and policy communities that assembled around the topics researchers at RAND addressed, I suggest that the particular character of RAND's interdisciplinary systems analysis was integral to its ability to influence in the defense policy community in the early years of the Cold War.


Keywords: The RAND Corporation, Interdisciplinarity, Systems Analysis, Cold War, Policy History
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: , ,


Philip Rocco

Student, Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Philip Rocco is a student at the University of Pennsylvania, working in the areas of Political Science and the History and Sociology of Science. His main areas of study and interest are the politics of knowledge production, information and public policy, and the history of social science's relationship to public policy. In addition, he is interested in the relationship between regimes for high technology and the production of popular music. He has been invited to present his work on technology and politics at conferences hosted by both the Journal of Policy History and the University of Thessaly in Volos, Greece.

Ref: I08P0671