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Micah Altman

Archival Director, Henry A. Murray Research Archive; Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences
Harvard University
How did you become involved in the world of data?: 

I became involved in the world of data through my graduate studies at Caltech. I was writing a dissertation on redistricting and I spent months in the library digitizing maps from the first Congress onwards,  typing in tables from reports, and reading the Congressional record. And then spent some more months generating my own simulation data. Then when I was a postdoc at Harvard one of my duties was to merge and reconcile data from our Record of American Democracy Project. My concurrent responsibility was to act as a Data Fellow, answering such questions as “I opened the data that is full of numbers what do I do now?”

What do you value most about your membership in IASSIST?: 

The IASSIST community is amazing and reflects a unique combination of technical, scientific, and informatic expertise with values of stewardship and service.

What was your favorite IASSIST conference?: 

My first in 1998 --  being trained as a social scientist it was a bit of a revelation that there was a community of people who both cared so much about the stewardship of data, as I did, and were also so much fun.

What is your favorite data set?: 

My most and also least favorite data set is Facebook. It represents a big part of the future of the social sciences, huge, networked,   rich, and constantly growing. It also presents fundamental challenges to managing the changing evidence base of social science and ensuring confidentiality, replicability, open access, long-term preservation.

What are some things you are working on currently?: 

SafeArchive is one of my big projects, with many partners, including Jon Crabtree and Nancy McGovern. SafeArchive is  an open-source system for TRAC auditing and policy-based automatic management of LOCKSS replication networks. The ultimate goal of the project is to make distributed replication easy for collaborating libraries, museums and archives.

 And I have a lot of other projects including  confidential data management, standards for data citation, public participation GIS systems for redistricting, and many more.

 

For more information, see my website: http://redistricting.info

When not working with data I…: 

Conduct social science research, write statistical software, or go to  parks with my two young children and Sunny, our golden retriever.

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