UCR Psychologist to Lead UC Consortium on Social Science and Law

Director of UCR’s Presley Center awarded $300,000 to foster multicampus, multidisciplinary research

Steven E. Clark

Steven E. Clark will lead a UC systemwide effort to create the UC Consortium on Social Science and Law.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The director of UC Riverside’s Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies will lead a University of California systemwide effort to advance social science and law research in a project designed to foster collaboration and multidisciplinary research across the UC’s 10 campuses.

Steven E. Clark, a UCR professor of psychology and internationally known expert in eyewitness memory research, has been awarded a two-year, $300,000 UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI) grant to create the UC Consortium on Social Science and Law. The UC will award more than $23 million over four years to 18 collaborative proposals under the MRPI program.

The members of the consortium are international experts in a broad range of topics in the intersection of law and social science, including inequality and diversity, crime, juvenile justice, and legal decision-making – including how witnesses make decisions about reporting crime, how jurors make decisions in criminal and civil trials, and how judges make decisions and exercise judicial discretion.

“California is a national leader in matters of law, social policy, and social change, and diversity,” Clark said. “It is incumbent on UC’s academics to continue that leadership role through social science and law research and scholarship. The MRPI award presents a unique opportunity to make tremendous headway in these matters to the great benefit of UC and all Californians.”

The consortium will create the infrastructure needed to transform UC from a national leader in social science and law scholarship to the national leader, Clark said. It will not compete with existing campus programs or centers, but will promote cross-fertilization of ideas and sharing of resources, and enhance the ability of UC researchers to obtain federal funding.

“By helping to us play together, the consortium can help us to all play better,” Clark said. “There are new projects and new ideas that can arise from our work together that might not otherwise come about – even from really smart individual researchers working alone.”

“The UC system has a lot of talent in the area of social science and law, but we’re scattered across different departments, schools, campuses, and disciplines such as sociology, criminology, psychology, and public policy,” he explained. “People are doing research on the same topic from different approaches on different campuses and in different departments. We hope that this project will facilitate research in way that cuts into new territory and brings people together who are doing research on a common topic but from different perspectives. Those collaborations can be very valuable.”

Clark said the consortium is developing a website that will be a one-stop-shop for social science and law research in UC system, listing hundreds of researchers from across the system and their projects, and posting research papers in a way to make them easily searchable online.

An October conference at UC Irvine is expected to attract hundreds of UC scholars engaged in social science and law research and encourage them to ask new questions, generate new and innovative ideas, and develop new prospects for collaborative research, said Clark, the principal investigator on the project. The conference will also invite law enforcement and legal professional to participate in the conference, to strengthen communication between academic researchers and the legal and law enforcement communities. “The best research comes from close partnerships and discussions between academic researchers and the professionals who deal with real world problems,” Clark said.

The conference will be an important kickoff for developing research collaborations, he added. The consortium will provide funds for the development of working groups that will pursue collaborative projects and grant proposals.

Although the consortium has not identified specific areas of research, Clark noted that UC researchers already address fundamental questions regarding such topics as legal decision-making, eyewitness testimony, inequality, immigration, children and law, mental health and violence, human behavior and environmental policy and law, as well as theories of justice, social control, and corrections.

“One of the big topics in the headlines today is to what extent there are racial biases in the criminal justice system,” he said. “There are people who study this from different perspectives in law schools, and in psychology, sociology and criminology departments. Researchers are examining to what extent there are, or are not, decisions biased by race or class in use of force, sentencing decisions or diversion programs. We are one of the most diverse regions in the country. Diversity in terms of the law is important in California, and many UC researchers are involved in looking at these issues.”

Co-principal investigators on the consortium project are: Gail Goodman (psychology, Davis), Elizabeth Cauffman (Psychology, Irvine), John Wixted (Psychology, San Diego), David Faigman (Hastings School of the Law), Hiroshi Fukurai (Sociology, Santa Cruz), Jennifer Mnookin, (UCLA Law), Victoria Plaut (Berkeley, Law), Victor Rios (Sociology, Santa Barbara), Karen Saywitz (UCLA, Medicine), Marjorie Zatz (Sociology, Merced), Jennifer Skeem (Social Welfare and Social Policy, Berkeley).

The MRPI awards program supports UC research projects that involve at least three campuses and strengthen the UC research enterprise. The program funds innovative, multi- or interdisciplinary areas that have the potential to benefit California and provide research opportunities for faculty and students.

The 2014 request for proposals garnered 186 eligible entries in the arts, humanities, social, biological and physical sciences, and engineering. The selected proposals – which together involve researchers from all 10 UC campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – were reviewed and ranked by experts from inside the university and elsewhere.

Award recipients will address issues such as aging-related memory loss, water security and policy in California, black cultural studies, and market-based solutions for environmental protection. The full list of awarded projects and their host campuses is available online.

The UCR Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies was established by the California Legislature in 1993. It  conducts research on crime prevention and works closely with local governments in Inland Southern California to develop and evaluate evidence-based policies, firmly grounded in social science, aimed at preventing youth violence and crime. It is affiliated with the UCR School of Public Policy.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
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Additional Contacts

Steven E. Clark
Tel: (951) 827-5541
E-mail: steven.clark@ucr.edu

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