MU's Center for Advanced Social Research to close

Thursday, February 27, 2014 | 6:05 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Center for Advanced Social Research is shutting down, the dean of the Missouri School of Journalism said Thursday.

No official date has been set, but the center is winding down operations and will officially close within the next few months, Dean Mills said. Until then, researchers and employees still have projects to complete and client obligations to fulfill.

The center — also known as the RJI Insight and Survey Center — has provided program evaluation, data collection, customized questionnaires, sampling methods and statistical analyses for clients. Researchers have worked for media organizations, government agencies, academic institutions and professional associations.

Mills said the decision was made two weeks ago after he and Esther Thorson, associate dean for graduate studies and research, discussed the situation. Keeping the center open did not make sense from a business standpoint, he said.

After the recession hit in 2007, contracts with nonprofit and government-related organizations began to dry up. Technology trends, funding cuts and ripple effects from the recession led to a decrease in business, he said.

The switch from landlines to cellphones made people harder to reach and the process of conducting surveys more labor intensive. States with reduced funding also began to provide less money to the types of agencies that traditionally employ the services of the center, Mills said.

The center began as a media research bureau during the 1980s. It was a small enterprise that performed survey work for Missouri papers and media outlets. In the 1990s, the operation was revamped and began to attract a national audience, Mills said.

At one point, the Center for Advanced Social Research was bringing in an annual net profit of $100,000 or more to the university, he said.

Three full-time employees and additional part-time researchers have all been notified of the closing. They will lose their jobs, but will be eligible for rehire and have been placed on a preferred hire list, Mills said.

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