Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

Director: Munther Dahleh | Email | Website

77 Massachusetts Ave. • E40-261 • Cambridge, MA 02139 • 617-253-1764

The mission of IDSS is to advance education and research in state-of-the-art, analytical methods in information and decision systems; statistics and data science; and the social sciences, and to apply these methods to address complex societal challenges in a diverse set of areas such as finance, energy systems, urbanization, social networks, and health analytics.

Technology advances, in areas such as smart sensors, big data, communications, computing, and social networking, are rapidly scaling the size and complexity of interconnected systems and networks, and at the same time are generating masses of data that can lead to new insights and understanding. Research at IDSS aims to understand and analyze data from across these systems, which present unique and substantial challenges due to scale, complexity, and the difficulties of extracting clear, actionable insights.

Spanning all five schools at MIT, IDSS embraces the collision and synthesis of ideas and methods from analytical disciplines including statistics, data science, information theory and inference, systems and control theory, optimization, economics, human and social behavior, and network science. These disciplines are relevant both for understanding complex systems, and for presenting design principles and architectures that allow for the systems’ quantification and management. IDSS seeks to integrate these areas—fostering new collaborations, introducing new paradigms and abstractions, and utilizing the power of data to address societal challenges.


IDSS students will address societal challenges by combining the fundamentals of statistics, data science, information and decision systems, as well as a rigorous study of social sciences with application domain areas. Over the coming years, MIT’s new Institute for Data, Systems, and Society will support and develop academic programs to advance IDSS’s mission.

Doctoral Program in Social and Engineering Systems

For the next generation of researchers and practitioners addressing complex systems of societal importance, IDSS offers its signature program, the Doctoral Program in Social and Engineering Systems (SES). Students receive a thorough preparation in information, statistics, systems, and decision sciences; they focus on a social science; and finally gain experience addressing a concrete societal challenge. Graduates of the program will advance the state of knowledge in theory or in practice, and will take their skills with them to transformative careers in their chosen field.

Technology and Policy Program

IDSS hosts the Technology and Policy Program (TPP), which has offered the Master of Science in Technology and Policy at MIT since 1976. TPP’s ongoing mission is to develop leaders who can create, refine, and implement responsible policies that are informed not only by an understanding of technology and its instruments, but also by their broad social contexts. Combining a core in science and engineering with studies in applied social sciences, TPP’s curriculum imparts strength in both a technical field and in the policy process. Moreover, each TPP student is required to complete a research thesis, supplying a significant research experience that equips graduates to be effective leaders in both the public and private sectors, or prepares them for further development of their research skills in a doctoral program.

Upcoming Academic Programs

As the home of MIT’s emerging statistics community, IDSS is also working to offer academic programs in statistics to MIT’s undergraduate and graduate students. IDSS believes that the need to analyze data in order to make informed decisions is fundamental to our society. Statistical reasoning is the key to doing this—especially in the era of big data. IDSS is working to develop multiple academic offerings in statistics, but first in the queue is an undergraduate minor (possible launch in September 2016).


For more information about IDSS academic programs, contact: (for SES) 617-253-1182 or; (for TPP) 617-258-7295 or