Mary Vardigan, Assistant Director, ICPSR, and Director, Collection Delivery
Assistant Director, ICPSR;
Director, Collection Delivery
I began my tenure at ICPSR in 1985 working on documentation for the American National Election Study and other publications. I held a variety of writing and editing positions and with the advent of the Web in the 1990s I transitioned to oversight of ICPSR's Web presence.
For the last several years I have been an ICPSR Assistant Director and Director of Collection Delivery, the outward-facing unit of ICPSR. Our unit manages the various websites that ICPSR supports (now around 30 separate sites), metadata describing ICPSR data, user support, publications, and membership and marketing. Several very effective team leaders help in this endeavor.
I also hold the position of Director of the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) Alliance. DDI is an international effort, begun by ICPSR in 1995, to establish a standard for social science metadata. DDI has been a really exciting project for me because it has brought me in contact with amazing people around the world who share an interest in high-quality metadata. DDI is now being used in over 70 countries of the world and is playing a role in important longitudinal studies that include biomedical data.
I have been extremely fortunate to be present for dramatic changes and innovations at ICPSR over two and a half decades. During this period ICPSR transitioned from data distribution on tape to Web downloads. That was huge. Another important change involved transforming the ICPSR Guide to Resources and Services, a print catalog that ICPSR published into the 1990s, to a Web-based catalog — the precursor of the searchable online catalog that ICPSR provides today.
In the 1990s, ICPSR received an Infrastructure in the Social Sciences grant from NSF, which served to further transform the organization. This award, which supported several people in my unit, helped ICPSR improve its search and finding aids, translate metadata to DDI format, and begin to build a Bibliography of Data-Related Literature. The Bibliography, with its over 60,000 citations (only "the tip of the iceberg," according to ICPSR bibliographer Elizabeth Moss), clearly demonstrates the importance of data sharing to science and the major impact ICPSR has had over its 50-year history.
With the recent global focus on data, ICPSR's role as a trusted archive has come to the fore, which has also been exciting. Many in the field now look to ICPSR for advice on data management, data reuse and sharing, digital preservation, disclosure risk limitation, and more. It is really gratifying to be part of this rediscovery of ICPSR and its expertise in data science.
This profile wouldn't be complete without mention of the many special colleagues and friends at ICPSR and in the OR community whom I have been honored to know and to work with. These are people who truly believe in ICPSR's mission and who work tirelessly to support it. Because of them, I am sure the next 50 years will bring even greater success!