Going a bit generalist here for a moment, so bear with me (or just ignore this) ...
I recently spoke to a good friend of mine who was (aside from being a physics post-doc) decided to devote much of her time to a more social cause... after our usual frantic catching-up-on-things, we realized that we were both in the search of a way to make sense of a large amount of unstructured text (or in my case, stories). Traditional social science research tools such as surveys (many of them self-selecting), interviews and observation logs are only one perspective - with the Internet, we suddenly have access to much more qualitative data out there, and most of them are not even solicited but submitted voluntarily.
Standard (free) qualitative software - well, I have done some word frequency analysis, and there are probably ways to do more correlational stuff with the data - still, I'm sure much more could be done if we had software do manipulate these types of data visually. I have found some promising research in this area but here is where the other problem comes up: funding and time. Quite frankly, social studies outside the academic environment (and even within the academic environment) are just not desirable targets for funding, unless its results can be used to further political, economic or other profitable agendas. Who cares if a large number of people find reality miserable and hindering enough to want to constantly escape into a virtual world? Who cares if the majority of women in the world are still actively discouraged and stopped from getting education? Who cares if "laziness" and "criminal tendencies" are still blamed for poor living conditions and poverty? Who care as long as corporations can still make a living selling subpar products to consumers and continue to raise profits by downsizing people and cutting environmental corners?
I realize this has somewhat turned into a full-fledged rant, so I'll stop here. Instead I'll start doing a little prayer every night that some day, at least a few semi-intelligent people will become influential enough to support and create a platform where research studies will be funded based on how much they will improve the well-being of the world at large, both on the scientific and the social side.