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Regional Research Data Center Planned for U Nebraska-Lincoln

A new regional research data center is scheduled to open at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in fall 2015. The Central Plains Research Data Center will provide authorized researchers with access to restricted federal data, allowing them to conduct deeper investigations into social and economic issues.

This new data center will be part of a network of 18 such centers in the United States that are jointly funded by the United States Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation. The center will be located in UNL's Whittier Research Center and and will be managed by U.S. Census Bureau employees.

Researchers will require government clearance to access the highly secure center. Those who receive clearance will have access to restricted-use data from the Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal sources.

"Having this wealth of federal and regional data available on campus will provide unique opportunities for analytics and training across social, behavioral, economic, geographical, environmental and health-related contexts," said Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development at UNL, in a prepared statement.

Potential research projects that may make use of the center's data include:

  • A study of income inequality, particularly how individuals move up and down the income distribution over time;
  • A study of food distribution problems using data from the center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • An exploration of regional drought experiences using data from the center and UNL's National Drought Mitigation Center; and
  • Research into minority health disparities to analyze disease incidence and the effectiveness of treatment programs.

According to John Anderson, professor of economics at UNL and the executive director of the new center, secure research data centers such as this one provide researchers with access to sensitive individual information, which helps them investigate issues in greater depth than they can using aggregate data.

The National Science Foundation provided a $300,000 grant to help launch the center, and UNL is partnering with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of South Dakota to establish the center.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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