The Institute for Sociological Research is a research unit within the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, connected to the Department of Sociology. Members of the Institute comprise teachers and teaching assistants of the Department, as well as junior researchers (PhD students and postdocs attached to projects. In administrative and organizational terms, the Institute’s activities are managed in coordination between the director (Prof. Ivana Spasić), the head of the current macroproject (Prof. Mladen Lazić), and the research team.
The Institute was established in 1972. Its first director was Professor Zagorka Golubović. Research activities of the Institute chiefly unfold through macroprojects, with 3–5 years timeframe and comparatively large research teams, funded by the public authority in charge of scientific research. Since the first project “Social Conflicts in Yugoslavia”, in the forty-odd years of the Institute’s history a total of nineteen such projects have been completed, including subprojects and a large number of specific topics.
The mainstay of the Institute have been large-scale quantitative studies of basic societal features and social processes on representative samples of Serbia’s population. This has allowed for continuous monitoring of the fundamental characteristics of the Serbian society and their change. Such studies were first launched in the 1970ih in the period of mature “self-management socialism,” as the socio-political system in the then socialist Yugoslavia was called, and continued through all the dramatic transformations of the society in the following decades: from socialism in crisis (1980s), to regime collapse, economic breakdown, war and dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to the so-called unblocked post-socialist transformation after 2000. The main emphasis has generally been on social stratification and inequalities, but due attention has also been paid to changes in other basic areas, such as the family (childhood, parenting, the young, partnership); urbanity and rurality; the economy (labor market, unemployment, entrepreneurship, household coping strategies); values and value orientations; deviance and mental health; education; religion; etc.
The Institute also works on other types of projects. Policy projects, for instance, are aimed at providing empirical evidence for better decision-making in designing public policies. As commissioned by state bodies and/or in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, the Institute has participated in many projects of this kind, including the drawing up of several national strategies, in specific domains such as poverty reduction, sustainable development, youth, and housing.
The project that deserves special mention is the complex and demanding European Social Survey, implemented in Serbia for the first time in 2017–19, under the coordination of the Institute.
The Institute is strategically committed to: studying issues and problems in social life (research projects); developing applied and policy projects; establishing, reviving and/or expanding cooperation with national and international research institutions, NGOs and foundations in designing and implementing joint projects; creating and presenting databases from completed projects; education: research training for fundamental and applied projects; organizing seminars, conferences, debates; making research findings available to the public through publishing books and journals.
An important role of the Institute is to connect teaching and research, and to foster future generations of researchers. While graduate students and junior fellows make up a significant part of the research team, undergraduates studying at the Department of Sociology are also regularly involved in the research processes. Completing different tasks at various stages of the research process provides them with practical, hands-on experience and thus enhances their skills as aspiring independent sociological researchers.
The Institute has published over 100 books – individual or coauthored monographs, collections of papers, and conference proceedings. Besides, it is the main publisher of Sociologija, one of the most prestigious social science journals in Serbia and the region.
The Institute is a major hub for academic exchange and cooperation. It regularly hosts conferences (at least one academic conference is organized each year), round tables, seminars, workshops, training sessions, and the like. The Sociology Club, regular monthly talks about recent sociological publications, also takes place at the Institute.
The Institute’s international cooperation is rich and diverse. Foreign researchers are often taken in as partners in working on the Institute’s projects, while bilateral cooperation on joint projects with the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb (IDIZ), Croatia, and the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana, Slovenia has been regular for quite a long time.
On several occasions the Institute was the beneficiary of project funds secured by the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, under the auspices of the PEFORM project. Also, members of the Institute have in the past years organized or participated in many summer schools and student visits, and hosted guest researchers from abroad (Armenia, Croatia, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and other countries).