The Social Science Computing Cooperative has provided computing services to agencies and departments in the social sciences at UW-Madison for more than 30 years. The founding member of the Cooperative was the Center for Demography and Ecology, which decided to develop an autonomous computing capability in 1972. In 1984, the Department of Sociology, the Department of Rural Sociology and the Institute on Aging joined with CDE to share computing resources. The Institute for Research on Poverty joined in 1989 and the arrangement was formalized as the Social Science Computing Cooperative in 1990.
The Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) joined in 1996 on behalf of the Department of Economics. The Wisconsin Center for Education Research joined in 2002, becoming the SSCC’s first member outside the College of Letters and Science. The Center for Demography of Health and Aging joined in 2003, the School of Education in 2008, the Center for Financial Security in 2010 and the UW Survey Center and Center on Wisconsin Strategy in 2011. In 2011, the Center for Financial Security’s membership was expanded to include all of the School of Human Ecology. However, the School of Education and Wisconsin Center for Education Research left the SSCC in 2015 due to budget constraints.
In 2019 the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, which has long had close ties to many SSCC members, officially joined the Cooperative. Also in 2019, the School of Medicine and Public Health became a member, drawn by SSCC’s secure computing environment for working with HIPAA and other sensitive data—and making a substantial investment to expand that environment and give it the capacity to analyze big data. In 2020 the Wisconsin School of Business joined the Cooperative to take advantage of SSCC’s server capabilities for their faculty and graduate student researchers.
In 2009 the SSCC created a new category of members for smaller agencies, agencies who have only a few people who need SSCC resources, and even individual researchers. Members of this type have come from the School of Pharmacy, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Department of Psychology, the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, General Internal Medicine, and others.
The SSCC also serves the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the National Survey of Families and Households and the Havens Wright Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change, although they are not sustaining members.
Since 2006 the SSCC has provided instructional computing support for the the Social Sciences division of the College of Letters and Science. This includes SSCC accounts and statistical consulting for all graduate students in the division, plus student accounts, computer labs, and consulting for classes that use statistical software. This was the result of merging the Social Science Microcomputing Lab into SSCC, which had instructional support as its primary mission.
The Cooperative is funded by annual contributions from its member agencies, making it a creature of those agencies. There are no fee-for-service charges for individuals.
The Chairs and Directors of those organizations meet annually to review the expenses of the previous year, to consider the Cooperative’s expenditure plan for the coming year and to undertake their part of its support. The admission of new organizations to the SSCC requires a unanimous vote of this group. An organization may leave the SSCC at will but must give six months’ notice.
Policy guidance and oversight of the SSCC is provided by a Steering Committee made up of faculty representatives of the sustaining member organizations appointed by the Dean of Letters and Science on the recommendation of the relevant Chairs and Directors. Steering Committee members are appointed for a three-year term. The steering committee recommends one of its members to the dean as Chair of the Steering Committee. The Chair is in charge of routine oversight of the SSCC and is supervisor of the SSCC’s Director. The current chair of the SSCC Steering Committee is Jim Walker (Economics, Center for Demography and Ecology).