NORC & Equity Research


By: Ashani Johnson-Turbes, Vice President and Director, NORC at the University of Chicago

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (1951)

We find ourselves at a watershed moment in history where issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are front and center for social scientists and the individuals, communities, and societies we probe. Like Alice in Wonderland, organizations and academics have found ourselves at a crossroads trying to determine the way forward – which way we ultimately want to go.

At NORC at the University of Chicago, our long-standing mission to provide trustworthy data and analysis to support decision-makers seeking to improve the human condition for individuals, families, and communities demands that we look deeper to help illuminate the path forward. Doing so allowed us to get laser focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and led to the launch of the Center on Equity Research (CER) housed in NORC’s Academic Research Centers and led by Vice President and Director, Ashani Johnson-Turbes, Ph.D.

Established in May of 2022, The CER works to advance equity through development, implementation, and dissemination of high quality inclusive and equitable (I&E) social science research design and methodology. Focused largely on expanding culturally responsive and equitable research and evaluation, the CER endeavors to: (1) strengthen NORC’s internal capacity and expertise conducting I&E research; (2) strengthen partnerships with communities, nonprofit organizations, government, and corporations to do I&E research; and (3) develop and disseminate “best practices” for I&E research to become a thought leader in what Dr. Johnson-Turbes calls, “Equity Science”.

It is critical to create and disseminate I&E research for many reasons, including to raise awareness of DEI, but more importantly, to center and empower historically marginalized and/or underrepresented groups, democratize the research process, and advance equity broadly. As stated by Associate Director, Vince Welch, “We are an organization committed to rigorous, nonpartisan research and obtaining the most valid and reliable data. We cannot afford not to focus on inclusive and equitable research.”

CER’s exemplary projects include the Racial Equity and Justice Survey, a national survey examining U.S. adults’ understanding and perceptions of systemic racism developed and conducted by NORC. In addition, CER leads the AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation Evaluation Project, serving as AstraZeneca’s research support, evaluation, and technical assistance provider to advance health equity throughout U.S. communities, particularly in historically marginalized communities.

There are many and varied ways to conduct I&E research. CER aims to serve as a thought leader inside and outside of NORC to support scholars, communities, and organizations working in “Equity Science.” We believe that I&E research extends far beyond subject matter and populations studied, it should be embedded across research cycles and integrated into social science best practices as a best practice.