Altman

Micah Altman

Affiliations
Director of Research, MIT Libraries, and Head/Scientist, Program on Information Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Areas of Expertise:
  • Revitalizing U.S. Democracy
  • Voting
  • Higher Education
  • Science & Technology

About Micah

Altman conducts research in social science, information science and research methods – focusing on the intersections of information, technology, privacy, and politics; on electoral transparency and participation; and on the access to, transparency of, reliability of, governance of, and policy applications of scientific research. He is a Co-Principal Investigator, with Michael P. McDonald, in the Public Mapping Project, which works with good government organizations such as Common Cause, the Midwest Democracy Network, and League of Women Voters to apply technology to enable transparency and participation in redistricting, electoral mapping, and election administration. As part of his these efforts, Drs Altman and McDonald have received the Tides Foundation Pizzigati Prize for creating software in the public interest – in support of nonprofit sector and social change; the O’Reilly Strata Data Innovation Award for Social Impact; the American Political Science Association’s Best Research Software Award, awards by the Information Technology & Politics section; and made Politico’s list of Best Policy Innovation. Dr. Altman is a Senior Fellow (non-resident) in Governance Studies, at Brookings; serves on the board of iSolon, a policy institute committed to exploring and advancing opportunities for democratic reform brought about by new information technologies; is chair of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance a consortium of over 150 organizations committed to long-term public access to digital research, heritage, and public records information.

Podcast

Publications

"Modeling the Effect of Mandatory District Compactness on Partisan Gerrymanders" Political Geography 17 (1998): 989-1011.
Uses computer simulation and optimization methods to show how compactness standards can be used to limit gerrymandering, but only if such standards require severe compactness. This article was cited by the Supreme Court in the United States, in both the plurality and dissent, as part of their Vieth v. Jubelier 2014 decision.
Numerical Issues in Statistical Computing for the Social Scientist (with Jeff Gill and Michael P. McDonald) (John Wiley and Sons, 2003).
Demonstrates the widespread sensitivity of the results of statistical analysis in social science to hidden computational choices and to measurement error. We develop methods to test statistical results for robustness to algorithm choice, software implementation, and measurement error.
"Communicating Science and Engineering Information Data in the Digital Age," (with Panel on Communicating National Science Foundation Science, Engineering Information to Data Users: Kevin Novak, Micah Altman, Elana Broch, John M. Carroll, Patrick J. Clemens, Diane Fournier, Christian Laavaert, and Andrew Reamer), National Academies Press, 2012.
Summarizes challenges and best practices for disseminating government statistics. And recommends that best practices require shifting emphasis from the dissemination of reports to the dissemination of data of replicable, auditable, authentic data through open public API’s.
"National Agenda for Digital Stewardship," (with Jeffrson Bailey, Karen Cariani, Jim Corridan, Jonathan Crabtree, Blaine Dessy, Michelled Gallinger, Andrea Goethals, Abbie Grotke, Cathy Hartman, Butch Lazorchak, Jane Mandelbaum, Carol Minton Morris, Trevor Owens, Meg Phillips, John Spencer, Helen Tibbo, Tyler Walters, Kate Wittenberg, and Kate Zwaard), Library of Congress, 2013.
Argues that digital stewardship is vital for the authenticity of public records, the reliability of scientific evidence, and the enduring accessibility to our cultural heritage. This report identifies the highest-impact opportunities to advance the state of the art; the state of practice; and the state of collaboration within the next 3-5 years.
"Public Participation GIS: The Case of Redistricting," (with Michael P. McDonald), Proceedings of the 47th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, IEEE/Computer Society Press, 2014.
Shows how three major factors influenced the effectiveness of efforts to increase public input into the political process through crowdsourcing. First, open electoral mapping tools were a practical necessity to enable substantially greater levels increase public participation. Second, the interest and capacity of local grassroots organizations was critical to catalyzing the public to engage using these tools. Finally, the permeability of government authorities to public input was needed for such participation to have a significant effect.
"Publishing: Credit Where Credit is Due" (with Liz Allen, Jo Scott, Amy Brand, and Marjorie Hlava). Nature 508 (2014): 312-313.
Argues for increasing transparency in research through formally documenting and publishing all substantial contributions to the research supporting a published finding, and provides a taxonomy of roles that can be used to increase comparability of contributions across research publications.

In the News

Micah Altman quoted on on how technology can democratize district-building in Daniel Kurtzleben, "Technology Gives Citizens a Say in Redistricting" US News & World Report, March 9, 2011.
Micah Altman's research on district-building (with Michael P. McDonald discussed in Mary Silver. Micah Altman, "Crucial Redistricting Season Underway: Fire Up the Open Source GIS Software," Epoch Times, August 11, 2011.
Micah Altman's research on district-building (with Michael P. McDonald) discussed in Alex Howard. Micah Altman, "There’s a Map for That: Can Redistricting be Opened to the Public through Open Source and the Web?," O’Reilly Radar, December 20, 2011.
"How Participatory Technology is Changing Redistricting," Micah Altman, TechPresident, February 8, 2012.
Micah Altman quoted on creating “optimally compact” districts (with Michael P. McDonald) in Llewllyn Hinkes-Jones, "Why Computers Alone Can’t Eliminate Corruption in Redistricting" Atlantic Cities, February 26, 2013.
Micah Altman quoted on the business of data brokering in Adam Tanner, "Bizarro World of Hilarious Mistakes Revealed in Long Secret Personal Data Files Just Opened" Forbes, September 5, 2013.
"Re: Proposed Rule: Improve Tacking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses," Micah Altman (with David O’Brien and Alezandra Wood), response to request for comment on proposed rulemaking, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, March 8, 2014.
"Re: Big Data Study: Request for Information," Micah Altman (with David O’Brien, Salil Vadhan, and and Alezandra Wood), response to request for information, White House Office and Science Technology Policy Big Data and Privacy, March 31, 2014.
"Create Real Redistricting Reform through Internet-Scale Independent Commissions," Micah Altman (with Michael P. McDonald), Harvard Law and Policy Review: Notice & Comment, April 4, 2014.