Professor Helen Margetts has been appointed as the new Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, taking up her position from 1 October 2011.

Professor Helen MargettsA political scientist of international standing, Margetts joined the department in 2004 as Professor of Society and the Internet, having previously been Director of the School of Public Policy at University College London. Her research focuses on digital era governance and politics, investigating the nature and implications of relationships between governments, citizens and the Internet.

Margetts’s many important books, articles and policy reports have influenced academia and public policy in the UK and worldwide. Her major research reports on electronic government undertaken with Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE represent the first and most systematic evaluation of the UK Government’s electronic presence. They have helped to shape e-government development in the UK, with their recommendations followed up in a succession of Parliamentary hearings, and attracting the attention of No. 10 Downing Street, the UK Treasury, and government agencies worldwide.

Recently, Margetts has focused on experiments as a methodology to explore citizens’ political behaviour and interaction with government online. With little previous experimental research in this area, her work has important implications for furthering understanding of collective action such as online petitioning, voting and political protest.

Margetts is an advocate of increased visibility of Internet research and methodology within the mainstream of political science, and public policy research. She currently holds an ESRC professorial fellowship to assess where mainstream political science knowledge, theory and methodology should be re-examined and developed in light of widespread use of the Internet. Margetts is also the Editor of the journal Policy and Internet, which aims to encourage the new theory, research methods, and empirical data needed for the study and development of public policy in the digital era.

Margetts said: “At a time when the Internet is implicated in almost every major news story, the development of social science understanding of online behaviour is vital. My ambition for the OII is to develop the methodological and theoretical tools which enable us to understand individual behaviour on the Internet – thereby also understanding the dynamics of collective behaviour across politics, economics and society. Building on the impressive research base built up by my predecessor Bill Dutton over the past ten years, we will continue to operate at the forefront of empirical research, incorporating insight, expertise and skills from mulitiple academic disciplines, feeding the findings of high quality research directly into policy making and design.”

Professor Roger Goodman, Head of Oxford University’s Social Sciences Division, said: “In the last ten years, Bill Dutton has realised the vision of the OII’s founders, so that after its first ten years it is already one of the leading institutes in the world researching the use of the Internet. The Social Sciences Division appreciates the incredible amount that he and his colleagues have achieved in this period. It is entirely fitting that, on its tenth anniversary, Bill should hand over the reins to the Institute’s second Director, Helen Margetts, with whom the Division looks forward to working as she takes the Institute on to its next level of development.”

The OII is one of the world’s top centres for the study of the social impact of the Internet. Founded in 2001 as a department of the University of Oxford, it focuses on Internet-related research and teaching, and on informing policy-making and practice.

Professor Margetts succeeds Professor William Dutton, who has been the OII’s Director since 2002. Professor Dutton remains at the OII as Professor of Internet Studies.