The Cline Center is pleased to announce that the Illinois Board of Higher Education has officially made us a permanent part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Board also approved a new name for the Center that aligns what we do with what we are called: the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research.
Even though our name has changed, our mission remains the same: transforming information into knowledge that advances human flourishing. While our commitment to this mission is unwavering, our methods of pursuing it have greatly evolved since the Center’s founding 13 years ago. Our new name does a better job of reflecting the breadth of our supported research agenda and the Center’s use of innovative computational methods to analyze unstructured textual data.
The Cline Center began in 2004 as the Center for the Study of Democratic Governance. In 2007, we became the Cline Center for Democracy. That name reflected both the generosity of Carole and Richard G. Cline’s founding endowment and our agenda of research and public engagement activities focused on the institutions and practices that enable democratic governance around the world. This work yielded impressive results, including widely-used datasets on democratic and autocratic regimes, as well as a project on constitutional development that eventually became the independent non-profit Comparative Constitutions Project.
Eventually, the Center’s faculty and staff came to realize that understanding the history and future prospects of democratic governance required developing entirely new data streams for documenting complex processes of social, economic, demographic, and political change. Taking on that challenge moved us into the world of extreme-scale data analysis.
To that end, the Center’s research activities have increasingly centered on developing our Global News Archive, which now contains more than 100 million documents published over the past 100 years by news organizations from almost every country on earth. The Archive expands by the second as we collect online news nearly as fast as it is published. With help from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, we have developed specialized software to identify, extract, and analyze the billions of people, places, events, and organizations in this content.
These advanced computational methods enhance and anchor, rather than replace, our existing programs. We continue to support and host events that engage students, members of the public, and scholars on important social issues. We also continue to support research on conflict processes, religious and ethnic groups around the world, as well as economic development and governance. These technologies enhance these efforts, enabling Cline Center supported scholarship to push the boundaries of academic research and also inform decision-making that improves societal well-being around the world.
Finally, our new name also better reflects the diverse stakeholders we now serve. Ten years ago, we were a small operation built around the vision of a single faculty member. We now do our work through a network of more than 75 Affiliates across five continents and more than a dozen departments in six colleges across the University of Illinois. Our list of collaborators still includes pre-eminent experts on democratic governance, but has grown to encompass a variety of social scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and humanists concerned with many kinds of societal and technological challenges.
We also have more than a hundred student alumni and employ dozens of interns and student researchers each year. Our internship, fellowship and student employment opportunities enable undergraduate and graduate students to participate in cutting-edge data science, engineering and social science projects.
We are very excited for this new chapter in the history of the Cline Center and we look forward to what the future has to offer. If you are interested in joining our Affiliates program or would like to collaborate with the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research on some of the biggest political, economic, and societal challenges facing our world, please email us directly. To receive regular updates on our work, sponsored events and programs, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.