The Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) evolved out of a Social Science Research Committee formed in 1953 and chaired by Peter A. Munch, Professor of Sociology and Department Head of Sociology and Anthropology. UND President George Starcher formally established the Institute in 1954 and appointed Munch as its director. A board of directors was also formed which consisted of two members from each of five social science departments: sociology and anthropology, geography, economics, political science, and history. The purpose of the SSRI was to bring together social scientists on the UND campus in order to respond to the applied socio-behavioral research needs of North Dakota and the upper midwest region. At that time, the various social science disciplines were dispersed among different schools and lacked a formal communication vehicle. The SSRI also assisted with securing grant funding.
A research theme, "The Modern Development of a Frontier State", was created to include a variety of projects. The first research project was the study of the social impact of the oil boom upon the town of Williston, ND. It was funded by a $35,000 grant from the Hill Foundation of St. Paul in 1954. In reality, the Williston project was the only early project directly conducted by the Institute. Several reasons account for this situation. Faculty who normally would have played a vigorous role in the SSRI were already committed to their own research or book projects. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research was also established in 1953 which involved the active participation of the Economics department. Additionally, the SSRI was unable to attract national research funding.
The SSRI remained inactive until 1972 when Dean Bernard O'Kelly of the College of Arts and Sciences resurrected it, urging the University president to appoint Dr. Richard Ludtke of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology as director. Ludtke served until 1976 when he was replaced by James Larson, Associate Professor of Sociology. The SSRI's research and professional activities became the domain of the Sociology Department almost exclusively. Eleven projects were conducted from 1976 to 1982 and involved faculty from Social Work, Economics, and the Medical School. The projects included "Low and Moderate Income Residents in Grand Forks: A Needs Assessment"; "An Evaluation of North Dakota Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Laws and Traffic Safety Program"; "Testing the Effectiveness of Safety Belt Campaign Through Mass Media in North Dakota"; and a national survey of "Drinking Patterns Amongst Women".
Johnson, Ronald L. Reference tables: population change of incorporated places in North Dakota 1940-1960. 1967.
Johnson, Ronald L. Toward a health status assessment of North Dakota. 1971.
Larson, James H. Juvenile and criminal justice research. 1984.
Larson, James H. Juvenile detention and institutional care for juvenile delinquents in North Dakota. 1977.
Larson, James H. and Ernest Norman. Client services for disabled and handicapped North Dakotans: an inquiry into the course charted by the 1969 North Dakota plan for comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services and projected needs for the 1980s. 1980.
Ludtke, Richard and Arne Selbyg. Evaluation of the North Dakota Energy Crisis Assistance Program. 1986.
Social Science Research Institute. Community health nursing: North Dakotans attitudes and utilization. 1988.
Social Science Research Institute. Task analysis of the position of case manager for the developmentally disabled in the state of North Dakota. 1989.