Social and spatial context are important determinants of morbidity and mortality. However, there is little clarity about the role of context for kidney disease specifically, particularly before the end stage. Meanwhile, research clarifying the clinical, cellular, molecular, and genetic causes of kidney disease is accelerating considerably. We postulate that without contextual information, even the most detailed biomedical information cannot fully capture the factors that ultimately drive the development and progression of kidney disease. The Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network is integrating detailed, state-of-the-art information on a social and spatial context to enable the exploration of the associations between the social environment and kidney disease. Here, we discuss the extant literature on social context and kidney disease, present information on sources of contextual information, and provide recommended further reading to facilitate future research on the contribution of the social context to kidney disease. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.