Margaret Levenstein appointed next director of ICPSR


Margaret Levenstein has been appointed director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Margaret Levenstein

ICPSR, founded in 1962, is the largest archive of digital social science data in the world, with more than 500,000 data files.

The announcement follows a national search by a joint committee composed of ISR faculty and members of the ICPSR Governing Council, who represent the consortium’s 760 members worldwide. Levenstein will be the ICPSR’s first female director.

“Maggie’s vision for ICPSR’s future is exciting,” said ICPSR Governing Council Chair Chandra Muller. “She has a strong academic research background, understands the potential of data science for current and future social science researchers, and has a stellar reputation both nationally and internationally.

“We were impressed by her skill in bringing together experts from diverse fields for the advancement of social science research goals. The council is looking forward to working with her.”

Levenstein will begin her five-year term on July 1, following the departure of current ICPSR Director George Alter. Under Alter’s direction the ICPSR expanded international members, increased data accessibility, and the Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research recruited more than 1,000 participants annually.

“I am very excited to be joining ICPSR and look forward to working with its staff, council and member institutions,” Levenstein said. “ICPSR is an important resource for the social and behavioral science community, curating and making accessible data assets that thousands of researchers have created over the last seventy plus years.

“The importance of both developing our capabilities to analyze and use data, and to preserving data have never been greater. The ‘big data’ revolution creates new opportunities and challenges. ICPSR’s role will be to help the research community make the most of those opportunities.”

An economist, Levenstein first joined ISR’s Survey Research Center (SRC) in 2003 as the executive director of the Michigan Census Research Data Center (MCRDC), a joint project with the U.S. Census Bureau. She also is a research professor in SRC and adjunct professor of business economics and public policy in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Levenstein has taken an active role at ISR, joining the Director’s Advisory Committee on Diversity in 2009 and serving as the chair of ISR’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic planning committee and as the liaison to the larger university program.

“ICPSR is one of the great resources supporting social science research all over the world. I am very excited about the skills and experience that Maggie will bring as the next ICPSR director,” said ISR Director David Lam. “The innovative leadership she has shown directing the MCRDC and chairing ISR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic planning process will make her a great leader of ICPSR.” 

She is the associate chair of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Program and past president of the Business History Conference. Levenstein received a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University and a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Her research and teaching interests include industrial organization, competition policy, business history, data confidentiality protection, and the improvement of economic statistics. She is the author of “Accounting for Growth: Information Systems and the Creation of the Large Corporation” (Stanford University Press, 1998) and co-editor of a two-volume collection, “Cartels” (Edward Elgar, 2007). She is the author of numerous studies on competition and collusion, the development of information systems, and the organization of innovation.

The ICPSR director search committee was chaired by William Axinn, research professor at the Population Studies Center and SRC at ISR. Committee members included Christopher Achen, the former ICPSCR Governing Council chair; Robert S. Chen, of Columbia University and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network; Philip N. Jefferson, Swarthmore College; Jared Lyle, ICPSR director of curation services; Muller; Amy Pienta, ICPSR associate research scientist; and Beth-Ellen Pennell, director of SRC’s international unit.


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