ICPSR’s J. Trent Alexander Receives Honor from U-M Office of the Vice President for Research


Congrats to ICPSR's J. Trent Alexander

ANN ARBOR—Associate ICPSR Director and Research Professor J. Trent Alexander is one of five research faculty members from across the University of Michigan being honored in October for leadership and advancement of critical work in areas, from drug discovery to migration patterns.  

Alexander, a research professor at the U-M Population Studies Center and ICPSR, will be recognized by the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research (OPVR) as he begins a five-year appointment as an OVPR Collegiate Research Professor. Alexander, principal investigator on the Decennial Census Digitization and Linkage Project, is developing a longitudinal data infrastructure that includes most of the U.S. population since 1940. This resource will create transformational research opportunities across the social, behavioral and health sciences.

Read more in The University Record.


Editor's note: The following includes updates to this article made in April 2024.


flyer for March 14 Jerome Clubb Collegiate Research Professor talk by J. Trent Alexander, Ph.D.


On March 14, 2024, Alexander gave a presentation at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) called "Jerry, Me, and ICPSR: Three Data Rescue Stories," in which Alexander described how he draws inspiration from late ICPSR Director Jerome Clubb. Alexander's new position is named the Jerome M. Clubb Collegiate Research Professorship. Learn more about Jerome Clubb.

ISR Director Kate Kagney and ICPSR Director Maggie Levinstein delivered speeches commending Alexander’s contributions to social science and history, and his leadership on the transformative Decennial Census Digitization and Linkage Project. This project has compiled an expansive longitudinal database of the U.S. population data starting from the 1940s, significantly aiding social science research.

Alexander reflected on his own academic path, which has been marked by key data linkage and digitization projects and ICPSR’s dedication to data enhancement and preservation.

He detailed the challenges and innovations in historical Census data digitization, particularly the use of automated methods to capture handwritten records and the strategy of linking individual records across datasets with unique identifiers. This meticulous approach allows researchers to pursue in-depth longitudinal studies.

Furthermore, the event recognized the broader implications of Alexander’s work, the intersection of history, data, and technology, and speculated on how AI might soon advance these methods. Alexander's presentation highlighted his passion for his discipline and his significant research contributions, celebrating them as part of an enduring commitment to data-centric historical scholarship.

Alexander played a video in his presentation that features late ICPSR data steward Piper Simmons describing an ICPSR data rescue-in-progress. He noted that "most of the data that Piper described has been fully recovered and is available on the internet through ICPSR," which now has a data stewardship award in Simmons' honor. "I'm just proud to be part of an organization that cares about this kind of thing," Alexander said.


Contact: Dory Knight-Ingram

Jul 12, 2023

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