Photo of J. Merrill Shanks
J. Merrill Shanks

J. Merrill Shanks

2009 William H. Flanigan Award for Distinguished Service as an ICPSR Official Representative

Merrill Shanks is currently Professor of Political Science, Director of the Social Science Computing Laboratory at the University of California, and Associate Chief Information Officer for the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. These titles only hint at Merrill's overall contributions to the social sciences and to infrastructure building across the decades, which have had a profound impact on the field.

Merrill's service to the social sciences actually began in the 1960s in parallel with ICPSR's beginnings. He joined the technical staff of the recently created Consortium, ICPR, in January of 1963 and worked as a lecturer and advisor for student data analyses in the Summer Program from 1964 through 1967. During this period he was also responsible for "cleaning" data from the 1952, 1956, and 1960 national election surveys. To expedite these tasks, he developed initial software for cleaning data and creating "machine-readable" codebooks. With Lutz Erbring, he initiated plans for an "interactive" transposed-file statistical system, which would later become the Survey Documentation and Analysis online analysis software, or SDA.

In 1970 Merrill received his PhD from the University of Michigan and became Assistant Professor and Director of the Berkeley Survey Research Center. During this time Merrill was a principal advocate and committee member for the creation of a central IT organization at Berkeley, and he initiated demonstration software for Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). He also served as co-investigator for the 1972 National Election Study, and was a founding Member of the NES Board of Overseers, on which he served from 1976 to 1985.

During the 1980s Merrill published major essays with Warren Miller on the elections of 1980, 1984, and 1988. As the founding Director of the Computer-assisted Survey Methods (CSM) Program, Merrill moved it to central IT at Berkeley and created an external consortium-type Association to support continuing CSM development. CSM developed successive versions of the Computer-Assisted Survey Execution System (CASES).

In 1996, Merrill completed The New American Voter with Warren Miller, featuring the 1992 election. Merrill served as the founding Chair of the Governing Committee for the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) beginning in 1995.

More recently, Merrill has served as Principal Investigator for the Public Agendas and Citizen Engagement Survey (PACES) and has completed several PACES-based conference papers and NES-based extensions of The New American Voter. He is preparing a comprehensive book on "policy-related foundations of electoral decisions."

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