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For more than eight decades, NORC at the University of Chicago has delivered trustworthy data and analysis to inform society’s most important decisions.

Since our founding in 1941, NORC has been central to national and global exploration and reflection. Working closely with our partners and clients, we have shaped the questions, gathered and analyzed the data, and derived the insights that allow governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens worldwide to make more informed decisions. In the process, we have led innovation in research methodology and set the standard for rigorous, culturally sensitive, transparent, and unbiased inquiry into society's most pressing issues.

We continue to illuminate topics across the spectrum of human experience. We have explored the structural and personal factors that contribute to overall health and well-being. We have examined what it means to learn, how we best learn, and how our education systems contribute to positive and negative outcomes. We have studied the nature of employment and created deep knowledge about the state of the national economy. We have helped governments design, implement, and evaluate programs to improve the human condition. And we have investigated the sometimes conflicting views that influence public policy and personal behavior.

The diversity of our research is tied together by each project’s importance to our collective well-being. Each new study adds to our expertise in areas ranging from race relations to sexual behavior to crisis response. And each new innovation—from researching how survey participants interpret questions to using sensor technology to corroborate self-reported data to unlocking the knowledge hidden within big data—enhances the quality of the data we gather and the insights that can be derived from that data.

But our clients come to us not just for information and insights but for evidence-based strategic counsel and technical support. We have evaluated the effectiveness of their programs and policies, advised them on program design and policy development, and even helped them implement programs. In the process, we have enabled them to pursue their missions backed by real-world evidence and to do so with greater effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

We now look to the future in a context of accelerating change within the industry, growing amounts and types of data, dramatic technological shifts, a dynamic population, and a growing and diversifying set of players in the research and data industries. In this environment, we must chart a course of evolutionary yet bold change that will build upon our traditional strengths to ensure our relevance, impact, and long-term sustainability.

Evolution means creating new, scientifically rigorous, transparent, and cost-effective ways to understand citizens through web-based data collection, as NORC is doing with its AmeriSpeak platform—the first to combine the speed and efficiencies of web surveys with the accuracy and rigor of more traditional approaches like in-person and telephone interviewing. It means developing methods and tools that allow researchers worldwide to remotely collaborate and access highly sensitive data in a secure environment, which is made possible by the revolutionary NORC Data Enclave. Ultimately, NORC's vigorous and deliberate evolution is rooted in its very nature: a passionate and unapologetic culture of learning, testing, and adaptation and a fascination for understanding what comes next.

But while much in our field and within the organization itself will continue to change, our core principles will remain the same:

  • An unswerving commitment to the highest standards of scientific and academic inquiry, including the transparency of both methods and outcomes those standards demand
  • A relentless drive to innovate, to bring to bear the most effective uses of the latest technological tools, and to be a learning organization that constantly strives to advance the theory and practice of research
  • A belief in the value of collaboration and collegiality, because the best solutions to the most daunting (and exciting) challenges are found when researchers, data scientists, technologists, and policymakers bring the best of themselves to the table and work together toward a common goal

We live in an increasingly data-saturated world that prompts profound and necessary questions about how data can be properly created, gathered, mined, understood, and trusted. Governments, businesses, academics, and the public turn to NORC to answer these questions and address their most critical challenges. Our core principles—and the hard-gained wisdom of the past—will continue to guide us as we pursue our mission to provide insight for informed decisions.

Commemorative History

80 Years of Insight, Innovation, and Impact.