Ida Russakoff Hoos, a research sociologist who was an early critic of using technology to study social issues, died of pneumonia April 24 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She was 94.
Hoos became interested in the effects of automation and technology on workers while completing her doctorate in 1959 at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation was later published as "Automation in the Office" (1961). She subsequently published more books on retraining employees and a critique of systems analysis in public policy.
Using cost-benefit analysis to make policy decisions is "about as neutral as asking a fox into a henhouse to observe the color of the eggs," she told the New York Times in 1982 as Reagan administration appointees began applying business concepts to governmental matters. "There is nothing magic or scientific about it. It is almost always an ex post facto justification of a position already taken."
Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, now a professor of environmental health sciences, health policy and management for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, worked as an undergraduate for Hoos in California. Goldman was the first physician to receive a presidential appointment to lead the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances at the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I really think she was a bit before her time in recognizing that the tools of systems analysis and cost-benefit analysis were a bit overrated," Goldman said. "She could see through many of the things being done at the time and could pinpoint the variables that were left out.... She was no Luddite. At the EPA, I ran into a lot of people who don't like technology because they're afraid of it. She had none of that. But she was also never one to blindly trust authority."
Hoos, who retired in 1982, was a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, the Office of Technology Assessment and the Energy Department. In 1976, she was described by writer-politician Frances Farenthold in a Redbook magazine article as one of "44 Women Who Could Save America."
A native of Skowhegan, Maine, Hoos graduated from Radcliffe College while working in a department store. She founded Jewish Vocational Services for underemployed women while studying for a master's in sociology, which she received in 1942, under social psychologist Gordon Allport at Harvard University. At the end of World War II, she moved to Berkeley with her husband and worked on her doctorate.
After receiving her degree, Hoos worked at the university, first in the Institute for Industrial Relations, then as the only social scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory. She became concerned about the effects of satellite surveillance on personal privacy and how decisions about nuclear power and nuclear waste were being made.
"Technological advance was evident on every front," she said on the UC alumni website. "The 'dominant paradigm' embraced only the quantitative. What you could not count, did not count. The social and human aspects were systematically avoided in the rush to be 'scientific.' "
Her husband, Sidney S. Hoos, died in 1979.
She moved to Brookline, Mass., in 1990. According to her family, she "loved opera and hated to iron."
She is survived by two daughters, three granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.