U.S. Census Bureau facility in Lexington, KY, also reopened for research
A Federal Statistical Research Data Center facility is coming to the Indiana University Bloomington campus.
Federal Statistical Research Data Centers, formerly known as Census Research Data Centers, are U.S. Census Bureau facilities that provide researchers with local access to highly restricted data from a range of federal agencies such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics. There are currently 29 Federal Statistical Research Data Centers throughout the United States.
Due to concerns about privacy and confidentiality, federal agencies limit the data they make publicly available by removing geographic identifiers (like county or zip code) or making alterations the data before public release. Federal Statistical Research Data Centers provide access to more detailed, micro-level data, letting researchers use the granular data while protecting confidentiality.
The new facility will be an important asset for the Bloomington campus supporting social science research, according to Jeff Zaleski, IU Bloomington’s interim vice provost for research.
“The Bloomington campus is home to leading researchers in the social and health sciences, public policy, and business,” said Zaleski. “This facility will provide new, multidisciplinary opportunities for our researchers to generate new insights on important social issues.”
Researchers working in IU research priority areas—including precision health and the addictions crisis—will be able to leverage the federal data to study the role of social contexts such as food insecurity and healthcare access.
Interested researchers can attend an informational webinar on Friday, September 25, 2020.
“Harmonizing county-level data from the Research Data Center and IU’s Person to Person Health Interview Study will provide unique insights into geographical variation in social status and resources that contribute to health disparities and the overall burden of disease in Indiana,” said Brea Perry, associate vice provost for social sciences at IU Bloomington and professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Person to Person Health Interview study is canvassing thousands of Hoosiers to gather information linking genetics with social and physical environments to better understand the physical and mental health of Indiana residents.
Kelley School of Business professor Carlos Avenancio-León, whose research has used RDC data, said the data center on campus will not only provide important opportunities for research, but draw new researchers.
“Having an RDC is essential for building a complete picture of big questions in business and economics,” said Avenancio-Leon. “In my own work, thanks to Census data, I have been able to evaluate and quantify the effects that granting voting rights to minorities has had on their economic well-being, and zoom in on the mechanisms that drive the relationship between political and economic empowerment. Having an RDC on campus will help social scientists and other researchers further their research agendas and help the campus attract new talent.”
Construction of the Federal Research Data Center at IU Bloomington is projected to begin in late 2021. Kosali Simon, who also draws on RDCs in her research, emphasized that it’s not too soon for IU researchers to start planning research projects using the RDC.
“Bloomington researchers are in the perfect position to get started planning now, so we’re ready to hit the ground running when our RDC opens,” said Simon, who is associate vice provost for health sciences at IU Bloomington and Class of 1948 Herman B. Wells Endowed professor in the top-ranked O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “This timeline allows researchers to start now on forming research proposals, seeking seed funding, and building teams for larger endeavors, like the sort of multidisciplinary research in the social and health sciences that is possible with this wealth of data.”
In the meantime, IU Bloomington researchers will continue to have access to the Kentucky Research Data Center in Lexington, Kentucky, through the campus’s membership in the Kentucky Research Data Center consortium. The consortium also includes the University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, and the University of Louisville. Bloomington’s new facility will be a branch of the KRDC facility in Lexington.
As of July 2020, the KRDC is again open for research, with extra restrictions and precautions in place due to COVID-19. IU’s Social Science Research Commons, which serves as liaison to the KRDC Consortium, can assist researchers with travel costs for use of the Lexington facility.
Contact the Social Science Research Commons at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.