From June 21st through July 15th I attended the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research. This annual program welcomes social scientists from around the world to the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus and, since the beginning of the pandemic, virtually. This year was my first time attending and the first time the program offered a hybrid option which I took full advantage of, opting to attend virtually (as a fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes, I still haven’t gotten over November 27, 2021, a day that will live in infamy in every Buckeye heart). For four or eight weeks, participants take accelerated courses in topics such as “Race, Ethnicity, and Quantitative Methodology” and “Introduction to the LaTeX Text Processing System”, attend the program’s Blalock Lecture Series (17 lectures on social science topics and data), along with having the opportunity to network with colleagues from around the world. Originally geared towards political scientists, the program welcomes social scientists from numerous disciplines including quantitative researchers in the humanities and librarians! 

So why attend? For someone pretty new to the field of academic librarianship, this program offered an unparalleled (sometimes grueling) introduction to the fundamentals of quantitative (and qualitative) social science research. Although I am firmly in the camp that librarians should and do know “a little bit about a lot of things”, I valued the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of social science research – the “whys” behind the methodology section of papers; the journey a data point takes from a survey response, to an excel spreadsheet, to statistical software, to a beautiful data visualization; and, most importantly, put the order of operations to work after learning about it all those years ago (side note- did you know PEMDAS is controversial? I didn’t. But other ICPSR Summer Campers sure did!). 

I selected the “beginner” level, if you will, of course offerings – opting to take “Mathematics for Social Scientists I”, “Statistics and Data Analysis I: Introduction”, and “Introduction to the R Statistical Computing Environment”. While at times the four weeks felt more like “boot camp” as opposed to “summer camp” (three classes a day, Monday-Friday, plus homework!), by July 15th I felt like I had climbed a mountain, and was pretty dang satisfied with the results. The four weeks did indeed provide a foundation from which to grow my knowledge, interest, and practice of supporting social science research here at Wake Forest – expanding my knowledge of terms, theories, ideas, and standard practices all of which will (hopefully) improve my ability to source and share appropriate resources and tools with students, faculty, and staff in need. The deep dive into data analysis and visualization, a topic of which has always been equal parts fascinating and terrifying to me, was alone worth the long days and work. I also discovered that the three other academic librarians I had in my classes (that I knew about) also felt motivated to attend ICPSR to better understand and support the data research needs they are seeing trending on their campuses – which has inspired my own future research interests. 

And, while I still certainly can’t tell you anything about the “LaTeX Text Processing System” or how one accomplishes a “Bayesian stochastic simulation” (and probably never will), I’ve gained an appreciation and beginning understanding of the theory and practice that, when put together, go on to create greater understanding and insight into our world.