The Initiative

The Initiative for Data-Driven Social Science (DDSS) was launched in the summer of 2019 after significant planning and discussion about enhancing the social science data infrastructure at Princeton. In October 2017, a document outlining the creation of a new Center for Data-Driven Social Science called upon the initiative to serve three key roles: 

  1. Serve the needs of the present and (gently) nudge us toward the future. 
  2. Create public goods for both Princeton and the world. 
  3. Ensure Princeton’s long-term position of preeminence in the social sciences and promote the University’s growth into data-driven science. 

In the summer of 2019, Nolan McCarty, Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, was appointed as the faculty director of DDSS.

Director's Welcome

The Data Driven Social Science Initiative was established at Princeton University in 2018 with the aim of developing and sharing new methods for quantitative and computational social science. Our goal is to build a community of researchers who share a collective body of knowledge on analytic techniques, novel sources of data, paths for building partnerships with outside organizations, and procedures for safeguarding privacy and maintaining the highest possible standards for data security.

The digitization of information systems, knowledge, commerce, and communication has created unprecedented opportunities for social scientists seeking new insights into human behavior. Advances in data storage, data processing speed and software for data analysis have opened up new areas of social science inquiry that researchers could only imagine just a few decades ago. By equipping researchers with the computational and analytic tools that were out of reach in the past, we can develop powerful new ways to understand and help solve some of the most pressing problems facing our nation and the world.

As you can see, we have already funded a wide range of projects and we encourage applications for funds to support new projects. We are especially interested in projects that create access to new data sources, use innovative techniques for processing and analyzing highly complex information systems, or build data systems that can be used for a wider range of purposes by other researchers and the general public.

Provost's Charge

To test out ideas and explore strategies for encouraging and supporting the use of data (including 'big data') in academic research in the social sciences at Princeton.

Our Mission Statement

To enhance the support of data-, computation-, and IT-intensive social science research at Princeton. To build a multidisciplinary community of faculty, graduate and postdoctoral users of such tools to foster both resource sharing and collective problem solving. To encourage innovation in data- and computationally-intensive social science research to better position Princeton as a leader in the area. 


DDSS is led by a faculty director, and overall strategy and key programmatic and funding decisions are made by an executive committee. A technical advisory group was formed in January 2020 to advise DDSS on how best to integrate programming, services, and staff into the overall data and research ecosystem at Princeton. The technical advisory group members are charged with providing feedback and assistance on a host of DDSS components (e.g., websites, events, training, infrastructure, etc.) that may impact/intersect with campus stakeholders.