Our History

The Harvard-MIT Data Center, originally known as the Government Data Center, was established in the early 1960s as part of a nation-wide movement across universities to collect, consolidate, and share social science research data. This movement led to the creation of the ICPSR (the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research), the largest collection of social science data in the world. In our early days, we primarily were responsible for managing the distribution of ICPSR tapes. We also created a community environment in which users were eager to share knowledge about data sources, statistical methods, computer technology, and software.

In 1987 all of our holdings physically were moved to the Faculty of Arts and Science's (FAS) Department of Government. In recognition of the widespread use of these materials by social scientists across all of Harvard's schools and departments, our name was changed to the Harvard Data Center. At about this time we also established several of the earliest local computer networks. These networks contained a wide array of statistical software and computing resources. Simultaneously we began transitioning most of our holdings off tape and onto more modern media.

In the early 1990s we played a central role in a major National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that established a research training program in political economy, a joint program of the FAS Department of Government, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Economics Department, and similar ventures.

In 1996 we entered into an agreement with MIT to extend services to MIT users. Our name was then changed to the Harvard-MIT Data Center.

In 1997 we completed the first web version of our Virtual Data Center project. In 1999 we were awarded a multi-million dollar grant by NSF and five other funding agencies to develop an operational, open-source, digital library for quantitative research data. We since have received additional grants and funding support from the Library of Congress, NSF and others to continue our research and development projects. The Dataverse Network repository was launched in 2007 with additional features such as citation standards, data archiving, and enhanced online data analysis, and has gone on to win accolades from the American Political Science Association (APSA).

In 2005 we moved to the new Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS) complex and expanded our IT support to all the residents and related centers, becoming a founding member of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS).