Sara Miller McCune, founder, executive chairman, and publisher of Pacific Standard, is the publisher and chair of SAGE Publications, Inc., the California-based book and journal publishing house, as well as president of the McCune Foundation, based in Montecito, California. In 1965, she founded SAGE Publications in New York City and moved the company to California in mid-1966, serving as its president for 18 years prior to becoming SAGE’s chairman in 1984. SAGE Publications, one of the leading academic and educational publishers in the world, is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California, and has offices in Washington, D.C.; London; New Delhi and Kolkata, India; and Singapore.
A graduate of Queens College of the City University of New York, McCune is a member of the board of directors of the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She has served as a trustee of Fielding Graduate University, headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, and as Fielding’s interim president in 1999-2000. She is currently a member of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation board of trustees and the UC Santa Barbara Chancellor’s Council.
In 2007, Sara Miller McCune founded the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Santa Barbara, California, to provide journalists and media professionals with the tools to properly disseminate research-based knowledge to influential audiences in the U.S. and abroad. As a private operating foundation, the Miller-McCune Center strives to not just inform, but also to promote meaningful dialogue by reporting, in clear and concise language, the latest and most relevant scientific research and innovations shaping the issues of the day. Today, using print and online resources, internships, and direct outreach to the scholarly community, the Center’s goal is to tap into existing social and behavioral research to inform and promote forward-thinking actions in public policy. To that end, the Center supports the following programs:
PACIFIC STANDARD MAGAZINE AND PSMAG.COM
True to the mission of the Miller-McCune Center, the award-winning Pacific Standard magazine and companion website, PSmag.com, reaches nearly 1,000,000 readers each month with evocative research-based articles featuring the best of the social sciences. From the brain to the ballot box, from Facebook to foreign affairs, Pacific Standard tackles the world’s biggest social, political, and cultural issues by exploring why we do what we do.
SCIENCE AND THE MEDIA PARTNERSHIPS
In an effort to help active researchers share their work with broader audiences in the public and policy arenas, the Center partners with organizations such as COMPASS and the Heinz Center’s Institute for Science Communication & Policy Development, as well as two Stanford University-based initiatives, the Aldo Leonard Leadership Program and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, to bring media resources, content, and expertise to private and public events.
SCIENCE JOURNALISM FELLOWSHIPS
The Center offers hands-on internships and fellowships to talented and eager journalism and policy students from around the world at its base in Santa Barbara, California. More than 14 people have come through the program since its inception in 2008.
PACIFIC STANDARD LIVE!
In 2014, Pacific Standard launched a series of public events with journalists, policy experts, and social scientists to present some of our biggest stories and examine why finding solutions will take more than intellectual energy and policies to move the dial.
WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
A letter from Sara Miller-McCune, founder of the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy and Pacific Standard.
January 9, 2013
For more years than I care to count, I have been reading and publishing academic articles about the latest research in political science, education, sociology, and psychology. Together with economics, these areas of study—the social sciences—make up the empirical backbone of American public life. From James S. Coleman’s research proving that “separate but equal” schools were anything but equal, to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling’s “broken windows” theory of policing, to Robert D. Putnam’s bracing look at the decline of civic engagement and social connections in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone, the research and the findings of social and behavioral scientists have repeatedly risen to the forefront of the national debate, and set the course of policy.
Just as often, however, valuable and potentially transformative insights from the social sciences have been overlooked, misunderstood, or passed over. Today, whole edifices of policy and public opinion rest on outdated models of human behavior and expedient nostrums about how markets, cultures, and institutions work. Where this is the case, the best research cries out to be heard.
We live in exciting times when it comes to our understanding of the mind, human behavior, and society. Advances in psychology and brain science have begun remaking entire fields of knowledge, including economics, law, and education. The notion that we humans are rational actors seeking always to maximize our self-interest—a concept that has been the basis of much modern economic policy and thought—is losing ground to explanations that chart the ways in which we are, to borrow a term from the behavioral economist Dan Ariely, predictably irrational.
These ideas have already begun to reshape the world of policy. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has created a Behavioural Insights Team within his Cabinet Office. Here in the United States, the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was deeply informed by behavioral economic principles from its founding—which means that these theories now stand to transform the market for mortgages, credit cards, and numerous other products that define the financial lives of Americans. Not long ago, the National Academy of Sciences sponsored an open meeting, in which we participated, to discuss the contributions of the social and behavioral sciences to national security, medicine, and engineering. The discussion covered the prevention of medical errors, the importance of human factors on the battlefield, and the ways in which an understanding of national and global human behavior can be harnessed to complete complex engineering projects in developing countries.
The world is facing so many overwhelming problems. How do we build an economy that is both fair and vibrant? How can we deliver basic, affordable health care for all? How can we educate our children so that more are trained for lives of success? How can we develop an environmentally sustainable society? How can we create a more just and democratic world in the face of rising inequality? These questions beg for answers, facts, and serious inquiry. Yet all too often the media pose merely rhetorical questions, leaving the loudest mouths on the far edges of the political spectrum to answer them, while neglecting the job of getting to the empirical truth of the matter.
Over the years, as one trailblazing article or book after another came across my desk at SAGE Publications, I would worry about how to get these important ideas to a wider audience. I founded the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy to do just that by pairing experienced journalists with the researchers and experts who scientifically scrutinize the nation’s biggest issues relating to education, justice, the environment, and the economy.
Today, early in our sixth year of publishing this magazine—formerly under the name Miller-McCune, and now as Pacific Standard—we look around and see an unharnessed wealth of research that can address many of today’s problems and actually advance our most intractable debates. Two of the organizations I am involved with—the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University—are working to expand the public’s recognition of research that should be central to our national conversation.
Pacific Standard’s goal is to be the publication that explains the deeply researched work that is, and that should be, changing policy. We endeavor to give our readers the tools—in the form of lively reportage and robust research findings—to answer the most vexing problems facing the world today.