By: Scott Campbell, ICPSR Summer Program Communications Coordinator

The ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research started in 1963, and we’ve been called many things since then. Many know us as simply “ICPSR” or “the Summer Program,” and others (hopefully) fondly call our courses “math/stats/nerd camp.” The name is interchangeable, much to our branding chagrin, but what remains constant is the quality of training offered and the generations of friends and colleagues that have shared the Summer Program experience. We bring together some of the best minds in the field to teach participants innovative methods, both traditional and cutting-edge. Our curriculum covers quantitative techniques from basic statistics all the way through advanced analytics. We do this because we know social science has had a tremendous impact on communities large and small, and we want to do our part in furthering great research and inspiring great people. 

Our mission has always been to be leaders in methods training, but I’d be lying if I said that was the best part. What I’m most proud of, and humbled by, are the scores of researchers and scholars that have come through the program and contributed to the broader science community, and helped build a Summer Program community of our own. I love coming to MPSA and seeing participants from years past, chatting with them about their work or reminiscing about that time we got rained on for two hours at a picnic. Research can sometimes be a lonely experience; we love bringing people together and catching up with our friends from across the globe. 

That love of bringing people together took a necessary pause when we moved the entire 2020 Summer Program online. For the first time in nearly 60 years we weren’t immersed in the controlled chaos of the program, we weren’t telling people to not feed the squirrels on campus, and we didn’t get to see those close connections form. It was a monumental effort to move the program online, and it could not have been done without the immense support and work of our instructors, teaching assistants, and participants. Registration for the 2020 program had already been open for six weeks when we learned the University of Michigan campus would be closed for the summer, and our first short workshop was two months away. In that time we set up a site for each workshop and lecture, surveyed our instructors to find out if they needed any help teaching online, and opened our pool of teaching assistants to bring the most talented and diverse group of people to the program yet. We learned that everyone involved in the program is patient, flexible, and dedicated to their work. 

When we announced that we were going online, by far the most common question we got was about access. Would people be able to take more than one course in the same time slot? Would lectures be recorded for people overseas so they didn’t have to try and learn advanced time series analysis at 3:00 in the morning? The answer to both was yes. This was a requirement for us: all courses had to be recorded, and those recordings had to be available to anyone in the course. That will remain true for the 2021 ICPSR Summer Program. If you need to watch later because of work or child care or time zone, or even if you just want to review the material again, every lecture of every course you registered for is there for you.

Ease of access last year and this year is one of the ways we are making the Summer Program more approachable than ever before. We hear a lot in general about how participants were surprised by their own abilities, or encouraged to find that this whole stats thing wasn’t as daunting as they first thought. For those who haven’t taken a statistics course in a long time or who simply didn’t have access or exposure to statistics, we love to hear from those people at the end of each summer. They say before the program they struggled with math, or they had some bad experiences with math growing up and it’s been intimidating ever since. The program offered a place for them to learn and grow into areas that were holding them back from doing the kinds of work they wanted to do. It’s incredibly inspiring to see people leave here having shed their fear or uncertainty, knowing that they are capable of more than they thought they were.

Registration for the 2021 Summer Program opens February 15! See our site for more information: 


Scott Campbell is the ICPSR Summer Program Communications Coordinator. He’s been with the Summer Program since 2012, starting as a member of the library staff before coming on full time in 2018.