About Social Science Matrix

Social Science Matrix is UC Berkeley’s flagship institute for social science research. Our purpose is captured in our name: we provide an organizational framework, a “matrix” that supports cross-disciplinary projects pursued by more than 500 social scientists across the Berkeley campus research landscape and beyond. With Matrix as a catalyst, UC Berkeley social scientists have unique potential to generate effective solutions to global challenges like mobility, behavior change, social resilience, and governance.

Matrix is a “lean” start-up incubator

Matrix is designed to foment relentless innovation, with the aim to generate new forms of scientific inquiry and design more effective forms of social intervention. We encourage risk-taking through sponsored research projects that investigate emerging trends in contemporary social science. We foster collaboration and project development by providing program coordination for research teams and events around questions that demand diverse perspective and methods. We offer administrative support for grant applicants and for grants and contracts management.

Matrix produces breakthrough research

New forms of computational modeling, new theories of cognition, and an exponential increase in data streams have created unprecedented opportunity for today’s social scientists. Our aim is to push social science beyond the conventional division of academic labor that has segregated micro from macro scales of analysis, behavioral from interpretative approaches, formal models from descriptive methods, experimental protocols from observational strategies, and historical inquiry from presentist perspectives. At Matrix, we believe that social science at its best is both empirically committed and relentlessly self-reflexive.

Matrix builds bridges to the outside world

The world’s challenges do not unfold within academic boundaries or timescales. In business, government, and civil society, there is an acute need for timely and actionable knowledge about the social world, whether related to scarcity, environmental dynamics, market transparency, inequality and governance, social dislocation, or cultural hybridization on a global scale. Matrix is motivated by the belief that the study of social life requires collaboration between the University and society at large. This is why we have taken as our motto: ‘Social Science for Berkeley and Beyond.’

Our History

Social Science Matrix traces its origins back to 2012, when Carla Hesse, Dean of the Social Sciences Division, recognized the need for new research infrastructures to support emerging scholarship. She envisioned two complementary entities. The first would be a center dedicated to data-intensive methods of analysis; this later became D-Lab. The second would be a research institute devoted to the advancement of multidisciplinary inquiry; this would become the Institute for Integrative Social Science (IISS), subsequently renamed Social Science Matrix. In January 2013, Professor William F. Hanks agreed to serve as the founding director, a position he held until 2019. Professor Michael Watts served as Interim Director from 2019-2020, and Professor Marion Fourcade has served as Director of Matrix since July 2020.


Matrix is located on the eighth floor of the Social Sciences Building (formerly Barrows Hall), on the southern edge of the UC Berkeley campus. The elevator to our entrance is located on the east end of the building. You can alternately take an elevator to the seventh floor and come up the stairs.

To learn more about Matrix, please see our frequently asked questions.