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The Perils of “Applied” Research in Academic Settings: Syracuse University Puts the Kibosh on Its Survey Research Operation

- June 20, 2008

Syracuse University political scientist Jeff Stonecash has been doing public opinion research for the last quarter-century, using university facilities and paying Syracuse students to serve as interviewers. He has conducted surveys for non-profit organizations and the local newspaper, among other sponsors, and for numerous candidates for public office — Republicans and Democrats alike. Now Stonecash is being told by Syracuse University authorities to cease and desist — this following complaints from a Democratic candidate about a survey that Stonecash recently conducted for his Republican opponent. The complainant alleges that Stonecash is a partisan Republican whose survey results are biased. (Actually, Stonecash is a registered Democrat.) When informed of these concerns, Stonecash indicated that he “would have done the same thing for [the Democratic candidate], but they never asked. I’m not a partisan pollster.”

This episode raises all sorts of questions about “applied” research in academic settings, especially in politically charged circumstances. For details, click here.

[Hat tip to Carol Sigelman]