Helen Margetts is the Director of the OII. She is a political scientist specialising in digital era government, politics and public policy, and data science and experimental methods.

email: director@oii.ox.ac.uk

tel: +44 (0)1865 287207

Helen Margetts is the Director of the OII, and Professor of Society and the Internet. She is a political scientist specialising in digital era governance and politics, investigating political behaviour and political institutions in the age of the internet, social media and big data. She has published over a hundred books, articles and major research reports in this area, including Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action (with Peter John, scott Hale and Taha Yasseri, 2015); Paradoxes of Modernization (with Perri 6 and Christopher Hood, 2010); Digital Era Governance(with Patrick Dunleavy, 2006); and The Tools of Government in the Digital Age (with Christopher Hood, 2007). In 2003 she and Patrick Dunleavy won the ‘Political Scientists Making a Difference’ award from the UK Political Studies Association, in part for a series of policy reports onGovernment on the Internet for the UK National Audit Office (1999, 2002 and 2007), and she continues working to maximise the policy impact of her research. She is editor-in-chief of the journal Policy and Internet. She is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science.

Professor Margetts joined the OII in 2004 from University College London where she was a Professor in Political Science and Director of the School of Public Policy. She began her career as a computer programmer and systems analyst with Rank Xerox after receiving her BSc in mathematics from the University of Bristol. She returned to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1989, completing an MSc in Politics and Public Policy in 1990 and a PhD in Government in 1996. She worked as a researcher at LSE from 1991 to 1994 and a lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London from 1994 to 1999.

Areas of Interest for Doctoral Supervision

Digital government, public management, public policy, collective action, political participation, democracy, political science, data science, experiments.

Research interests

Digital government, public management reform, tools of public policy, collective action, political participation, social science experiments, data science, alternative electoral systems, political extremism.

Positions held at the OII

  • Director, October 2011 –
  • Professor of Society and the Internet, October 2004 –
  • Director of Graduate Studies, October 2009 – August 2010
  • Director of Research, October 2004 – September 2009

Students supervised at the OII

Current students

Past students


Latest blog posts

Current projects

  • Elections and the Internet

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Scott A. Hale, Dr Taha Yasseri, Dr Jonathan Bright

    This site collects elections research at the OII. We are interested in exploring the extent to which data from the social web can be used to predict interesting social and political phenomena, especially elections.

  • OXLab: Oxford eXperimental Laboratory

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Tobias Escher, Dr Nir Vulkan, Dr Scott A. Hale, Ingrid Boxall, Professor Peter John, Lucy Bartlett

    Oxford eXperimental Laboratory is undertaking laboratory-based experiments (eg information-seeking tasks) on networked computers in two disciplines: Economics (interactive decision making) and Political Science (evaluating government information online).

  • OxIS: Oxford Internet Surveys

    Participants: Professor William H. Dutton, Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Bianca Reisdorf, Dr Grant Blank, Ulrike Deetjen

    Research on access, use and attitudes to the Internet in Britain based on biennial surveys covering (for example) digital and social inclusion and exclusion, social networking, safety and privacy concerns, Internet regulation, and behaviour.

  • Government on the Web

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Tobias Escher, Dr Scott A. Hale, Simon Bastow, Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Oliver Pearce, Jane Tinkler

    Research dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of e-government and the impact of web-based technologies on government.

Past projects

  • Interactive Visualizations for Teaching, Research, and Dissemination

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Professor Mark Graham, Dr Scott A. Hale, Dr Monica Bulger, Joshua Melville

    "InteractiveVis" aims to support easy creation of interactive visualisations for geospatial and network data by researchers: it will survey existing solutions, build currently missing features, and smooth over incompatibilities between existing libraries.

  • Big Data: Demonstrating the Value of the UK Web Domain Dataset for Social Science Research

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Professor Eric T. Meyer, Dr Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon, Dr Scott A. Hale, Tom Nicholls, Dr Taha Yasseri, Dr Jonathan Bright

    This project aims to enhance JISC's UK Web Domain archive, a 30 TB archive of the .uk country-code top level domain collected from 1996 to 2010. It will extract link graphs from the data and disseminate social science research using the collection.

  • Leaders and Followers in Online Activism

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon, Dr Ning Wang

    Where do political and policy-oriented mobilizations (such as e-petitions or organized protests) start and how are they sustained? What affects the propensity of people to join a mobilization, and hence, the mobilization's success?

  • The Internet, Political Science and Public Policy: Re-examining Collective Action, Governance and Citizen-Government Interactions in the Digital Era

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Scott A. Hale, Tom Nicholls, Dr Taha Yasseri

    This research programme aims to assess where political science understanding, knowledge and theory should be re-examined and developed in light of widespread use of the Internet, and to develop methodologies to study online behaviour.

  • Information Exchange between Citizens and the Department of Work and Pensions

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Dr Tobias Escher, Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Jane Tinkler

    A value for money study for the National Audit Office (NAO) looking at information exchange between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its benefit customers.

  • Breaking Barriers to e-Government

    Participants: Professor William H. Dutton, Professor Helen Margetts, Professor Rebecca Eynon

    Investigating the legal, organisational, technological and other barriers to expanding effective eGovernment services using the Internet and to define possible solutions at a European level to overcome such obstacles.

  • Participation in Internet-mediated interactions

    Participants: Professor Helen Margetts, Ingemar Cox, Steffen Huck

    This research applied a multidisciplinary approach to developing a methodology for evaluating the web structure and 'health' of e-government, and investigating design mechanisms for fundraising on the Internet (including determinants of giving behaviour).

Books

  • Margetts, H., John, P., Hale, S. and Yasseri, T. (2015) Political Turbulence How Social Media Shape Collective Action. Princeton University Press.

Conference papers

  • Hale, S.A., Yasseri, T., Cowls, J., Meyer, E.T., Schroeder, R. and Margetts, H. (2014) "Mapping the UK webspace: Fifteen years of British Universities on the web", WebSci 2014 - Proceedings of the 2014 ACM Web Science Conference. 62-70.
  • Hale, S.A., Margetts, H. and Yasseri, T. (2013) "Petition growth and success rates on the UK No. 10 Downing Street website", Proceedings of the 3rd Annual ACM Web Science Conference, WebSci 2013. 132-138.
  • Margetts, H.Z., John, P., Escher, T. and Reissfelder, S. (2009) "How many people does it take to change a petition? Experiments to investigate the impact of on-line social information on collective action", ECPR General Conference.
  • Margetts, H.Z., John, P. and Escher, T. (2009) "Can the internet overcome the logic of collective action? An experimental approach to investigating the impact of social pressure on political participation", Political Studies Association Annual Conference.
  • Margetts, H.Z. and John, P. (2009) "Experiments for Web Science: Examining the Effect of the Internet on Collective Action", WebSci'09: Society On-Line.
  • Escher, T. and Margetts, H.Z. (2007) "Understanding governments and citizens online: learning from e-commerce", Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).
  • Escher, T., Margetts, H.Z., Petricek, V. and Cox, I. (2006) "Governing from the centre? Comparing the nodality of digital governments", Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).
  • Petricek, V., Escher, T., Cox, I. and Margetts, H.Z. (2006) "The Web Structure of E-Government - Developing a Methodology for Quantitative Evaluation", 15th international conference on World Wide Web.
  • Margetts, H.Z. (2005) "The structure of e-government", Conference of the Communications Research Network.

Journal articles

Reports

  • Bright, J.M., Margetts, H., Hale, S. and Yasseri, T. (2014) "The use of social media for research and analysis: a feasibility study" In: Report of research carried out by the Oxford Internet Institute on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Margetts, H.Z., John, P., Reissfelder, S. and Hale, S. (2012) Social influence and collective action: an experiment investigating the effects of visibility and social information moderated by personality.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Goldchluk, S., Khan, M.K., Tinkler, J., Towers, E. and Escher, T. (2009) Department for Work and Pensions. Communicating with Customers. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 421 Session 2008-2009. London: The Stationery Office.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Goldchluk, S., Khan, M.K., Tinkler, J., Towers, E. and Escher, T. (2009) "Department for Work and Pensions: Communicating with Customers" In: Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. London: The Stationery Office..
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Escher, T., Pearce, O. and Tinkler, J. (2007) "Government on the Internet" In: Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. London: The Stationery Office..
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Tinkler, J., Pearce, O. and Bartholomeou, P. (2006) Achieving innovation in central government organisations: Detailed research findings. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. HC 1447-II, Session 2005-2006. London: The Stationery Office.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Tinkler, J., Pearce, O. and Bartholomeou, P. (2006) Achieving innovation in central government organisations. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 1447-I, Session 2005-2006. London: The Stationery Office.
  • Bartholomeou, P., Bastow, S., Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Pearce, O. and Tinkler, J. (2006) Report on Seven Focus Groups conducted for the Achieving innovation in central government organisations report. Published alongside Achieving innovation in central government organisations: HC 1447-I, Session 2005-2006..
  • John, P., Margetts, H.Z., Rowland, D. and Weir, S. (2006) The BNP: the roots of its appeal.
  • Margetts, H., Eynon, R.E. and Hicks, T. (2006) Research into Barriers and Incentives for Businesses Filing Returns Online. Article to accompany NAO value for money report Filing VAT and Company Tax returns. London.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Tinkler, J., Pearce, O. and Bartholomeou, P. (2006) Summaries of innovations submitted for the Achieving innovation in central government organisations report. Published alongside Achieving innovation in central government organisations: HC 1447-I, Session 2005-2006.
  • Bartholomeou, P., Campbell, R., Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z. and Tinkler, J. (2005) Report on Four Focus Groups conducted for the Citizen Redress NAO report. Published alongside Citizen Redress: What citizens can do if things go wrong with public services: HC 21 Session 2004-2005, 9 March 2005..
  • Bartholomeou, P., Bishop, M., Margetts, H.Z., Pearce, O., Tinkler, J. and Welham, S. (2005) Report on the 'Mystery Shopper' exercise conducted for the Citizen Redress NAO report. Published alongside Citizen Redress: What citizens can do if things go wrong with public services: HC 21 Session 2004-2005, 9 March 2005..
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Loughlin, M., Bastow, S., Tinkler, J., Pearce, O. and Bartholomeou, P. (2005) Citizen Redress: What citizens can do if things go wrong with public services. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 21 Session 2004-2005, 9 March 2005..
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Boucek, F. and Campbell, R. (2003) Difficult Forms: How government agencies interact with citizens. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 1145 Session 2002-2003, 31 October 2003..
  • Bastow, S., Boucek, F., Campbell, R., Dunleavy, P. and Margetts, H.Z. (2003) Report on Ten Focus Groups conducted for the 'Difficult Forms' NAO report. Published alongside Difficult Forms: How government agencies interact with citizens: HC 1145 Session 2002-2003, 31 October 2003..
  • Bastow, S., Boucek, F., Campbell, R., Dunleavy, P. and Margetts, H.Z. (2003) Form Survey Questions. Supporting Evidence for Difficult Forms: How government agencies interact with citizens. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. HC 1145 Session 2002-2003, 31 October 2003..
  • Margetts, H.Z. and Yared, H. (2003) Incentivization of e-government. Article to accompany NAO report: 'Transforming the performance of HM Customs and Excise through Electronic Service Delivery'. London.
  • Dunleavy, P. and Margetts, H.Z. (2002) Government on the Web II. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. HC 764 Session 2001-2002, 25 April 2002. London.
  • Margetts, H.Z. and Dunleavy, P. (2002) Better Public Services through e-government': Academic Article in support of Better Public Services through e-government. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 704-III, Session 2001-2002: 4 April 2002. London.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S., Tinkler, J. and Yared, H. (2001) Policy Learning and Public Sector Information Technology: Contractual and E-Government Changes in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Paper for the American Political Science Association's Annual Conference.
  • Margetts, H.Z. (2001) The Cyber Party. Paper to workshop 'The Causes and Consequences of Organisational Innovation in European Political Parties' at European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) Joint Sessions of Workshops.
  • Dunleavy, P. and Margetts, H.Z. (2000) The Advent of Digital Government: Public Bureaucracy and the State in the Internet Age. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association.
  • Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H.Z., Bastow, S. and Tinkler, J. (2000) The Advent of a Digital State and Government-Business Relations. Paper to the Annual Conference of the UK Political Science Association.

Posters

  • Margetts, H.Z., John, P. and Reissfelder, S. (2010) Emergent Leadership in Collective Action: An Experimental Approach. Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association.
  • Experimental Approaches

    This course will prepare students to interpret and practice the experimental method, an increasingly important area of social science research in general, as well as design of policy.

  • Turing Lecture: The Data Science of Politics

    Recorded: 30 March 2016

    Duration: 01:02:04

    Helen Margetts discusses how data science might help us to understand, explain and even predict 'political turbulence', by making use of data generated by politics co-ordinated, communicated and organized through social media.

  • Social Big Data for Policy-making

    Recorded: 19 November 2015

    Duration: 01:24:45

    Helen Margetts, Professor of Society and the Internet at University of Oxford, visits UEA to talk at the Big Data lecture series.

  • Governance in the Digital Era

    Recorded: 25 June 2015

    Duration: 02:05:51

    Professor Helen Margetts speaks at the Oxford-HKUST Leadership and Public Policy Series "Global Change and Local Challenges"

  • Building Data Science into Policy Design?

    Recorded: 1 June 2014

    Duration: 00:21:52

    Helen Margetts presents a paper that visualizes and models user data for all petitions created on the UK government petition platform over a three year period.

  • Helen Margetts at the 2014 World Economic Forum: The Power of Participation

    Recorded: 22 January 2014

    Duration: 00:05:24

    A tweet, Facebook like, or e-petition are tiny acts of political participation. But they can scale up into collective action and leave behind data that can transform political science, says Helen Margetts from the Oxford Internet Institute.

  • Helen Margetts Interviewed at the Chances and Risks of Social Participation conference (HIIG)

    Recorded: 22 November 2013

    Duration: 00:06:30

    Helen Margetts is interviewed about her keynote presentation at the "Chances and Risks of Social Participation" conference (HIIG, Berlin).

  • Potential and Challenges of Big Data for Public Policy-Making (IPP 2012 Plenary Panel)

    Recorded: 21 September 2012

    Duration: 01:00:14

    Panellists discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by big data for research and public policy-making at the conference "IPP2012: Big Data: Big Challenges".

  • Mapping and Measuring Cybercrime (Public Forum)

    Recorded: 22 January 2010

    Duration: 01:30:17

    This public panel discussion focuses on the most appropriate ways of mapping and measuring cybercrime to inform legislative, research and policy debates. It highlights the findings of an all-day invited forum on the topic.

  • Parties, Campaigns and Representation: The Political Impact of Blogs and Social Media

    Recorded: 18 September 2009

    Duration: 00:30:13

    Are social media tools likely to prove effective in engaging any voters except those who are already interested in politics? Is their apparent 'democratisation' of traditional party structures to be believed?

  • The Virtue of Forgetting

    Recorded: 18 September 2009

    Duration: 00:32:54

    Digital technology empowers us to find and share information as never before, but we do not always foresee the consequences of these new powers. Can the dangers of everlasting digital memory be avoided? Can we reintroduce our capacity to forget?

  • How are social media changing democracy?

    28 March 2016 The Economist


    The Economist explains the role of social media in political campaigning and draws heavily on the work of Helen Margetts and others in recently published 'Political Turbulence'

  • The data republic

    26 March 2016 The Economist


    An in-depth article about the effect, benefit and drawbacks of the internet and the use of data in politics quotes Helen Margetts and refers to the work of Luciano Floridi.

  • A new kind of weather

    26 March 2016 The Economist


    Examining collective action and the role of social media, the Economist draws on the work of Helen Margetts and colleagues in recently published 'Political Turbulence'

  • The Social revolution

    26 February 2016 Science


    Review of ‘Political Turbulence’ by Helen Margetts, Peter John, Taha Yasseri and Scott Hale. It ‘contributes an important series of creatively and rigorously researched insights into the social mechanics of Internet-based collective action’

  • Snapchat inadvertently encourages teenagers to send ‘sext’ messages, government’s expert panel warns

    17 February 2016 The Telegraph


    Coverage of the findings of the government report on child access and use of pornography led by Vicki Nash.

  • Review: ‘Political Turbulence: how social media shape collective action’

    17 February 2016 openDemocracy UK


    Stuart Weir extensively reviews recently published ' Political Turbulence' which he describes as revelatory. He also highlights the multi-disciplinary nature of OII research.

  • #Twitter crisis? Not if it decides that it can be a smaller, smarter platform

    14 February 2016 Guardian Online


    In a in-depth article about the influence of Twitter, John Naughton references recently published, 'Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action' by Helen Margetts and colleagues.

  • Howyou can win a Facebook argument

    13 February 2016 Daily Herald


    Taha Yasseri points out that the internet is mostly a self-organised and bottom-up system but that does not imply it is democratic or horizontal

  • How to win a Facebook argument, according to science

    11 February 2016 The Washington Post


    Taha Yasseri points out that the internet is mostly a self-organised and bottom-up system but that does not imply it is democratic or horizontal

  • Political Turbulence: we’re ‘dripping with data’ and it may make democracy better

    4 February 2016 Deutsche Welle


    Helen Margetts is interviewed about 'Political Turbulence' the book she co-authored with OII researchers, on the effects of social media on collective action.

  • Interview with Professor Margetts

    27 January 2016 BBC R4


    Helen Margetts talks about the tiny acts of online political participation which feature in ‘Political turbulence’ a new book which she co-authored. Sometimes these acts can scale up to mobilise change but most fail. (54.25 on the clock)

  • Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action, by Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri

    21 January 2016 Times Higher Education


    In his review of recently published 'Political Turbulence', by Helen Margetts and colleagues, Ivor Gabor says that organising and agitating online can be a powerful mover of change.

  • Start the Week

    5 October 2015 BBC R4


    OII Director Helen Margetts joined authors Jonathan Franzen and Gillian Tett on the Radio 4 flagship show to discuss issues raised in their new books.

  • What will the future of the internet look like?

    11 November 2014 World Economic Forum


    In a World Economic Forum blog following the recent meeting in Dubai, Helen Margetts’ is extensively quoted on governance and surveillance of the Internet.

  • The unpredictability of politics in the age of social media

    12 December 2013 Eurozine


    Eurozine, the cultural magazine, invited Helen Margetts to write about politics in the age of social media. In this long piece article, she discusses her work on political participation and the uncertain outcomes.

  • How to turn open data into better government

    22 October 2013 The Guardian


    Helen Margetts looks at the evidence for the popularly held view that open data is an unalloyed benefit. First, she says, we need more data about open data to make a judgement.

  • First day ‘is crucial for success of e-petitions’

    4 September 2013 BBC News, Politics


    Nearly all e-petitions are doomed to become 'digital dust' say Helen Margetts and colleagues whose work on 'Big Data and Collective Action' is featured in an in-depth article on BBC News online.

  • Governo deve usar rede social para entender reivindicações, diz cientista política

    25 July 2013 Folha de S.Paulo


    Government should use social networking to understand claims says political scientist.  Helen Margetts talks to Brazil’s influential daily paper about online political participation.

  • New Digital Advisory Board supports Government to deliver online services revolution

    25 April 2012 UK Cabinet Office


    Helen Margetts, OII Director and leading expert on e-government and digital era governance, is a member of a new group of experts, announced by the Cabinet office, to support the Government in delivering high-quality public service online by default.

  • Digital by default bolstered by new advisory board

    25 April 2012 The Guardian


    Helen Margetts is among experts drawn from industry, retail and academia who will advise and support Government on its digital by default delivery of public services as members of the Digital Advisory Board announced by the Cabinet Office.

  • Government launches Digital Advisory Board

    25 April 2012 Computer Weekly


    Computer Weekly report on the newly announced Digital Advisory Board, quotes Board member Helen Margetts. She talks of her plan to analyse the usage of gov.uk but says "the key challenge would be getting the rest of government on board."

  • Digital Advisory Board to support Government Digital Service

    25 April 2012 Wired


    In an article about the newly announced Digital Advisory Board of experts to advise and support the Government Digital Service, Board Member Helen Margetts said "we need to make sure that interacting with the government is easy to do".

  • Private sector focus to digital by default panel

    25 April 2012 UKauthorITy.com


    The public sector technology news site notes that the membership of the new Digital Advisory Board includes, among other "well known figures in the e-government community," Professor Helen Margetts.

  • Digital – the channel of choice for public services

    26 January 2012 Publicservice.co.uk


    Helen Margetts tells the 'Digital by Default' conference that there is a general acceptance of the digital by default position: digital could make government "more tailored to citizens' needs, to their actual behaviour, to preferences".

  • Whitehall refusing to probe cartel claims, say MPs

    26 January 2012 UKAuthority.com


    In a follow-up report into last summer's "recipe for rip-offs" investigation into government IT, the PASC warns that, despite good intentions, the government is not doing enough to prevent future project failures. Helen Margetts was an expert witness.

  • Riots going viral

    12 August 2011 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


    Helen Margetts says that riots have taken place before and after the advent of the Internet and social media. In a feature for the ESRC she discusses the implications of the methods of communication used by those involved in recent riots.

  • IT giants ‘ripping off Whitehall’, say MPs

    28 July 2011 BBC


    The Public Administration Committee (PAC) finds that "current arrangements have led to a perverse situation in which governments have wasted an obscene amount of public money" on big government IT projects. Helen Margetts and Ian Brown gave evidence.

  • The Potentially Revolutionary Political Role of Fried Chicken

    3 April 2011 The Atlantic


    Helen Margetts is quoted in response to doubts about the role of the Internet in political participation at the recent Midwest Political Science Association session on "The Internet Generation: Engaged Citizens of Political Dropouts" .

  • UK government IT is ‘uniquely bad’ MPs are told

    9 March 2011 Computer Weekly


    Professor Helen Margetts acts as an expert witness to the House of Commons Public Adminstration Select Committee. Using evidence from the Government on the Web study she said that the UK Government IT is far worse than comparable countries.

  • Government needs to bring IT skills in-house

    9 March 2011 The Guardian


    Professor Helen Margetts acts as an expert witness to the House of Commons Public Adminstration Select Committee.

  • Opinion: The net effect

    1 March 2011 Economic and Social Research Council


    Professor Helen Margetts is featured on the The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) website writing about the importance of the Internet to contemporary protest.