ICPSR: The 2000s
The following text was excerpted from a personal history written by Erik W. Austin, whose career at ICPSR lasted 41 years and included service as interim executive director. Austin says: "I have written these pages from my recall of events and developments described below. These recollections are my own, and do not reflect 'official' institutional history. Admittedly, some aspects of the consortium's programs and activities will be slighted due to my tangential involvement in them. Contemporary survey data developments, the details of computational matters, and the Summer Program are three such areas that won't get as much ink as they undoubtedly deserve."
The work of the staff on major internal and grant-funded projects continued apace in 2000 and the first part of 2001, while we awaited the arrival of new leadership. Just as in the turbulent 1980s and 1990s, the organizational politics that swirled all around the Consortium did not deter or slow down staff productivity. Attention to those politics was localized among the top managers, while the staff soldiered on with highly professional dedication and industry.
Myron Gutmann talks about his time as director of ICPSR.
New leadership, in the form of the Consortium's fifth Executive Director, arrived in August of 2001 in the person of Myron Gutmann. His vision and energy levels quickly became apparent to the staff, the Council, the Official Representatives, and the social science research community. He actively supported the ongoing projects, and launched a number of new initiatives that immediately increased ICPSR's visibility to the "outside" world and to our colleagues in ISR and at the University of Michigan.
He initiated four major archival projects, each robustly funded by grants from federal agencies we had not previously been able to tap, and each continuing through and past the time of this writing (October, 2006) [All of these projects are ongoing as of 2011. —Ed.]. The first of these helped establish a new topical archive, the Child Care and Early Education Research Connection (CCEERC), sponsored by the Child Care Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A joint archival and research project funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is focusing on disclosure risk in ubiquitous and archived social data. It is intended to measure disclosure risk in such data as sample surveys, and to develop and disseminate "best practices" for mitigating such disclosure risk. A third major initiative, Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR), is also funded by NICHD, and focuses on complex collections of demographic data that are currently being collected with NICHD support by scientists throughout the U.S. This project will provide archiving and reference assistance to project groups collecting complex demographic data, including such services as "virtual archiving" and help in dissemination of highly sensitive ("restricted") versions of these scientific data. These three projects are collaborative in nature, each involving other institution(s) in partnership with ICPSR.
The fourth of these projects initiated by Gutmann has a formal structure of partnerships built into it. The Data-PASS project (Data Preservation Alliance for the Social Sciences) is a component of the National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) mandated by the U.S. Congress, and funded by an appropriation to the U.S. Library of Congress. Its mission is to identify and preserve endangered digital social science material that has enduring value for understanding our society. ICPSR's partners in this venture are the Roper Center, the Harvard-MIT Data Center, the Murray Research Center at Harvard University, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the Odum Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Through this project, ICPSR staff will be introduced/re-introduced to the mysteries of the "punch card," and use of a punch card reader for preserving social science material stored only on punch cards. For this writer, the re-visiting of punch card technology truly is a "closing of the ring!!"
Gutmann arrived at ICPSR with an active research agenda, which he continued to pursue while Director of the Consortium. Having an ICPSR research presence is important for our relations with the other Centers at ISR, and one that had not been much emphasized in the previous decade. Myron added a number of research staff to the ICPSR roster, including two Post-Docs and a number of Faculty Associates.i He was also successful in convincing the rest of ISR that ICPSR should be entitled to hire persons with faculty titles to oversee critical activities for the Consortium. Recruited to fill important management and leadership positions were two individuals with extensive research credentials. Amy M. Pienta was lured from the University of Florida in 2003 to become Director of Acquisitions. Felicia B. LeClere left Notre Dame University in 2005 to lead ICPSR's Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR) project. These individuals also qualified for scientific titles, thanks to their research productivity [Pienta remains with ICPSR as of 2011, while LeClere left to take a position at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in 2010. —Ed.].
From left, Marketing Director Linda Detterman; Felicia LeClere, associate research scientist; Stacey Kubitz, assistant director for administration; and Research Investigator Lynette Hoelter at the ICPSR Council dinner in 2009
Rita Bantom, human resources director
After ICPSR's separation from CPS in 1998, it became apparent to ICPSR leadership that the scale of the operation had reached a level that required professional staff trained and experienced in important administrative functions such as human resources, grant and contract management, budget and financial affairs, and marketing. Breaking with the habit of ISR (and other University of Michigan departments) to favor staff with University experience over those with experience gained elsewhere, we chose administrative managers who were formally trained in these areas, and whose experience had been acquired not at U-M, but in the business world. The first of these was Business Manager Stacey L. Kubitz, who joined ICPSR in 1999, leaving a career at the General Motors Corporation. New Director Gutmann continued this pattern, hiring Rita Y. Bantom away from the Watson, Wyatt Consulting firm in 2001 to be ICPSR's Human Resources Director, and then bringing on board Linda M. Detterman in 2004 as Director of Marketing. (Detterman's prior career was with the Detroit-based market research firm MOR-Pace.) These individuals were easily the best qualified individuals in the respective applicant pools, and were able to bring to bear upon ICPSR's business affairs their experience from outside of "The University of Michigan way." [Bantom, Detterman remain with ICPSR, while Kubitz left in 2009, and was replaced by Diane Winter. —Ed.]
The Perry Building at 330 Packard Street became ICPSR's "home" in December of 2002. The Perry Elementary School had been built by the Ann Arbor school district in 1903, and was used by the district for sixty years.ii The University of Michigan acquired the school in the mid-1960s, and used it for a variety of purposes for some thirty years, in spite of its dilapidated interior. In the late 1990s, the University sold bonds to renovate the interior while retaining the historic exterior, since the building had been put on the Historic Register some years before. The occupants intended for the renovated Perry Building were from the Population Studies Center (PSC), with occupancy to occur when the University transferred PSC's internal affiliation from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to the Institute for Social Research. The leadership of PSC requested that they be given space in the ISR building on Thompson Street instead, and the renovated Perry Building space was reassigned to the Survey Research Center's Survey Research Operations group. That unit began to grow at a furious pace, thanks to simultaneously conducting several large national surveys. SRO's space needs became urgent and couldn't await completion of the Perry Building renovations (scheduled for the end of 2002). In 2001, SRO moved its operations into rental space on Eisenhower Place, on the periphery of Ann Arbor. ICPSR leadership signaled its interest in occupying the Perry Building, while the other ISR Centers expressed their desire to remain in the Thompson Street ISR building. ICPSR relocated to the Perry Building in December of 2002, moving all of its staff from the Borders and Carver-Gunn buildings into the newly renovated Perry space. Few doubt that the Perry Building space was the best that ICPSR had ever been assigned. Soon, the historic façade of the Perry Building became featured on ICPSR publications, and the building is now the "symbol" of the Consortium.
The Perry Building
Gutmann accelerated the pace of change at ICPSR both in terms of technological innovation and process improvement. In 2001 he instituted ICPSR Direct, a service that permitted anyone on a member campus to download data from ICPSR without going through the Official Representative on campus. ICPSR Direct, which freed up the ORs to concentrate on providing local technical support, revolutionized the data delivery model for the organization after 40 years of reliance on the ORs as "gatekeepers" of ICPSR data. It also freed up ICPSR's own User Support staff from spending most of their time on order fulfillment, permitting them to concentrate on assisting researchers with data discovery and data use.iii Another of Gutmann's goals for the organization was the streamlining of the "data pipeline" processes and procedures from the time of data acquisition through final release. To that end, in 2003 he constituted a Process Improvement Committee charged with evaluating current practice and recommending needed changes. The Committee issued a report, which was then reviewed and approved by an external committee. The recommendations set in motion a larger plan for greater automation of the pipeline so that data processors could focus on higher-level tasks.
I retired on November 30, 2006. I hope someone else will pick up the ICPSR story past that point.
[Acknowledgment: Jerome Clubb, ICPSR's third Director, read two drafts of this "history," and provided me with many valuable suggestions for improving it. He also corrected my faulty memory of people, events, and developments, and reminded me of perspectives to which I had given short shrift. I am grateful to him for the care that he took in engaging in this history of ICPSR. Any remaining errors or oversights, however, are mine alone. —Erik Austin]
By Dan Meisler, Editor
Along with Erik Austin's retirement in 2006, ICPSR saw the retirement of longtime Summer Program director Hank Heitowit. Tributes to the two long-time leaders were published in the 2006-2007 Annual Report. Heitowit was replaced by Bill Jacoby, who has overseen record enrollment in the Summer Program in 2010 and 2011.
ICPSR also began to focus in the middle and late 2000s on educational resources for undergraduates and graduate students, creating a research paper competition in 2005 and an internship program in 2006. And in 2008, the Online Learning Center was created and has been developing Data Driven Learning Guides for undergraduate classrooms ever since.
ICPSR has continued to grow in recent years, adding more than 100 members between 2006 and 2011. Revenue from grants and contracts also increased dramatically, from $6.2 million in fiscal year 2006 to $9.8 million in fiscal year 2010. (Revenue from membership showed a more modest increase, from $2.9 million to $3.5 million.)
Myron Gutmann, ICPSR director from 2001-2009, talks about increased grant funding and the continued growth of the consortium.
The consortium also has widened the scope of its holdings by establishing numerous new archives since 2006, including:
- the Resource Center for Minority Data or RMCD (first known as the Minority Data Resource Center or MDRC), created in November 2006 to expand access to data on underrepresented populations in the U.S.
- the Pre-Kindergarten through Third Grade Archive (PreK-3rd) was established in 2007 to provide longitudinal data to inform the Foundation for Child Development's PreK-3rd initiative
- the NCAA Student-Athlete Experiences Data Archive began in 2009 to archive and disseminate data on the academic progress and college outcomes of NCAA student-athletes
- the National Addiction and HIV/AIDS Data Archive Program (NAHDAP), launched in 2009 to acquire, prepare, and disseminate data on addition and HIV/AIDS from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- the Integrated Fertility Survey Series, a harmonized dataset created from ten surveys on fertility and the family taken over 50 years, began in 2009
- the China Multi-Generational Panel Dataset-Liaoning, started in 2009, contains more than 1.5 million trianial observations for more than 260,000 individuals in 698 communities in China collected over 150 years.
Myron Gutmann left ICPSR in 2009 to lead the National Science Foundation's Social, Behavioral and Economics Directorate, at which point George Alter took over as interim director. Alter, whose research interests focus on historical demography and who came to ICPSR in 2007 from Indiana University, accepted a five-year appointment as permanent director in July 2011.
iPost-Docs recruited by Myron to work on his Environment and Great Plains project were anthropologist Susan Hautaniemi (now Leonard) from the University of Massachusetts, and historian Kenneth Sylvester of the University of Alberta. These two scholars subsequently were given Research Investigator titles and, in 2005, were promoted to Assistant Research Scientist. The several Faculty Associates added to the ICPSR staff were James Q. Lee, an historian formerly at the California Institute of Technology; Library professional Diane Geraci, who came to the University of Michigan Library from Binghamton University (and who left U-M in early 2006 to take a position at Harvard University); and Margaret Hedstrom, a faculty member in the School of Information at U-M.
iiA second wing which retained the architectural style of the original school was added to Perry in 1923.
iiiMary Morris has been a stalwart of ICPSR's User Support staff for more than twenty years. Her career has spanned the Consortium's journey through technological changes, from magnetic tapes to file downloading off the Internet. In recent years she has been in charge of a burgeoning portion of the business, that of restricted dataset provision under licensing arrangements. In this realm, she has been able to apply her legal training (she has a law degree) to the social science enterprise.