New Tools for Data Discovery and Sharing Confidential Data at ICPSR


Fri Mar 15, 2013


Dr. George Alter
University of Michigan


Privacy Technology





Founded in 1962, ICPSR is the world’s largest archive of social science data.  This presentation will provide background on ICPSR’s activities with emphasis on recent developments in data discovery and access to confidential data.  New search tools are being developed to take advantage of rich metadata based on the Data Documentation Initiative XML standard.  ICPSR’s Social Science Variables Database allows users to discover and compare more than two million variables.  ICPSR has also developed a range of services to evaluate disclosure risks and share data safely, including a “virtual data enclave” which offers secure remote access to confidential data. 



George Alter is the Director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Research Professor at the Population Studies Center, and Professor of History at the University of Michigan.  ICPSR is the world’s largest social science data archive with units that specialize in data on aging, childcare, criminal justice, demography, health, and substance abuse.  Alter’s research grows out of interests in the history of the family, demography, and economic history, and recent projects have examined the effects of early life conditions on health in old age and new ways of describing fertility transitions.  He was president of the Social Science History Association in 2011. Recent publications include:  Alter and Clark ,“The demographic transition and human capital,” in The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Alter, Dribe, and Poppel, “Widowhood, Family Size, and Post-Reproductive Mortality: A Comparative Analysis of Three Populations in Nineteenth Century Europe,” Demography (2007).


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