Growing public skepticism about the value of science and expert knowledge has been a defining characteristic of the early 21st century. Critiques of science come from many sources – populist anti-elite social movements, academic studies of conventional scientific methods and institutions, and advocates for a more participatory approach to knowledge production. As the distinction between ‘facts’ and ‘values’ has become blurred, the evidence-base that informs current policy becomes increasingly contested territory. Notably, social scientists have long relied on evidence and scientific research to challenge popular misunderstandings of social problems like poverty, crime, racism, and sexism. At the same time, they have been at the forefront of critiques of the mainstream scientific enterprise and helped pioneer new approaches to research and engagement.

Professional social science societies (like RSS) have an obligation to support those who are studying and developing effective responses to the challenges faced by rural people and places in a globalized world. New models for scientific research will be increasingly important if our efforts are to inform public discourse and shape the development of effective public policies. To do this, we need to reconcile tensions between the desire to retain the power and insights of rigorous scientific methods, and our awareness of the societal biases associated with conventional scientific institutions. At the 2018 Annual Meetings of the Rural Sociological Society, we particularly encourage attendees to present work that explores this vexing and enduring issue, and to provide examples of innovative approaches to applied scientific research on rural topics.

Over the last 80 years, the annual meetings of the RSS have been a venue for the exchange of ideas and information about a wide range of rural issues. Our attendees include faculty and students from diverse colleges and universities, researchers working in government or nonprofit institutions, and rural activists and practitioners.  In addition to presentations on the meeting theme, we always invite presentations of research and engagement focused rural people, places and themes from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.


Abstracts should be approximately 350-500 words and briefly outline the purpose and theoretical framing of the paper, poster, program, or organized session. Where appropriate, include information about methods, data, and preliminary findings. The deadline for submitting papers, posters and sessions is Thursday, February 15, 2018, 11:59 pm (EST).

The abstract deadline is Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm (EST). See the Annual Meeting page of the RSS website for more information. Contact Kate MacTavish, Program Chair or the RSS Business Office with any questions or ideas for special events you have for the 2018 meeting.