IQSS develops the social science tools that lead researchers from observing the world to changing it.

gary king in a meeting

Gary King

Director, Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Albert J Weatherhead III University Professor

The goal of IQSS is to transform social science research from the art of studying the greatest problems that affect human societies to the science of understanding and solving these problems. After generations of trial and error, social scientists in this generation have finally figured out how to collect unprecedented privacy-preserving information about people, groups, firms, and countries and to invent the statistical methods, data science approaches, theories, and technologies necessary to make this data actionable.

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Like an astronomer with a telescope that can help us see 1,000 times farther, we now have a chance at building the tools to understand human society well enough to ameliorate some of its major problems. The spectacular successes we have seen in the last few years are nothing compared to what is coming. Come join us; you can make a difference.

IQSS aims to accomplish its goals by building bridges from academia to the rest of the world—by collaborating with industry and governments in incentive-compatible ways to produce social good for academia, companies, and the general public; by incubating programs, centers, and initiatives to become part of the Institute, other parts of Harvard, and independent nonprofits and commercial startups; and by building cutting edge infrastructure so scholars can do social science research better, faster, bigger, and more efficiently here than anywhere in the world.

We foster a flourishing community where students, faculty, and staff leverage each other's advances to take us all to the next level; this approach has been especially powerful in response to the pandemic as IQSS has helped researchers quickly adapt to remote work.

Many of our faculty, research staff, students and affiliates have been inspired to turn to thinking about how they can help during this worldwide crisis. Determining the impact of COVID-19 across the world, and developing plans to combat the virus, will be the overwhelming public health challenge of the coming year, and likely beyond. IQSS’s expertise mapping, data analysis and statistics at an enormous scale make us well-suited to mobilize on these issues.

One example of this is the IQSS Dataverse repository platform. Dataverse quickly emerged as a leading platform to deposit and share relevant COVID-19 data that researchers from other vetted institutions can analyze and add to, establishing a research hub for academics across the world to do crucial research. With the ability to share data and workflow for others to replicate and build on, we can help to improve research results for visualization, publication and education at a time when this information is needed most.

As we weather the pandemic, we continue to welcome numerous centers and institutes at universities around the world to copy what we have built at IQSS. Administrators from other institutions have visited here so regularly that we have standard protocols of meetings and tours for these events, and have even written an article summarizing our suggestions for others (see "Restructuring the Social Sciences: Reflections from Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science"). We are lucky to be in an unusual part of the economy where we do best ourselves when we help others and so we aim to lead in collaborative, academic ways—helping others build what we have built, while continuing to stay ahead by developing the next innovation to push forward the science of society to new heights.

Our History

We founded IQSS on March 1st, 2005, replacing the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences. Fourteen months later, IQSS was formally designated as a Harvard University-wide institute.

Over the next two years, IQSS incorporated within it the Harvard-MIT Data Center, the Henry A. Murray Research Archive, the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA), the RWJ Scholars in Health Policy Program, and others.

Since then, IQSS has helped create numerous programs, centers, and initiatives that are now part of the Institute; elements of other Harvard units; ongoing collaborative efforts between IQSS and other Harvard groups; separate organizations within Harvard; and independent nonprofits and commercial firms outside of Harvard.

IQSS is now the University's largest social science research center and an integral part of the Harvard administration. 

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Learn More About IQSS

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Programs & Products

IQSS houses and develops many faculty-led scientific programs, as well as software and systems tools designed to facilitate research and the use of large datasets.

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Research Resources

IQSS offers access for social scientists to technological resources, and we’re ready to help you learn how to use them so you can focus on your research.

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Our Impact

IQSS has encouraged and allowed researchers to think more expansively and take on projects that would have been impossible otherwise.

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Become an Affiliate

IQSS welcomes requests from scholars to become affiliated with our institution. Affiliation allows graduate students and faculty to apply for funding or access IQSS-based services, such as Sponsored Research Services.

Learn about how to become an affiliate