University of Washington Opens U.S. Census Bureau Research Data Center, Providing Access to Critical Social Science Trends, Information
September 24, 2012 Seattle— Officials from the U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Washington today announced the opening of a new Census Research Data Center (RDC) within the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences. As one of only 15 RDCs in the country, the UW facility will provide qualified researchers access to extensive Census Bureau data including demographic, economic, public health and household surveys, and may accelerate critical research and discoveries.
“There are fantastic benefits, “said Mark Ellis, Director of the NWCRDC and Professor of Geography at UW. Ellis believes the research data center will offer unmatched opportunities to generate a wide perspective on America’s social landscape, expand the collaboration between the US Census Bureau, local universities and academic researchers, and train a new generation of quantitative social scientists. “The Census Bureau runs a whole host of surveys—there are population surveys, but also surveys about housing, manufacturing, service jobs…a whole host of things designed to take the pulse of American society and American activity.”
”This Census Research Data Center will enable the research community across the Northwest to conduct statistical analyses that otherwise would not be possible on a wide range of research projects in the social sciences,” said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director. “We anticipate the creation of new products that leverage the value of Census Bureau data that has already been collected.”
Previously, Pacific Northwest-based researchers in the fields of business, economics, geography, health services, population, public policy and sociology had to travel 800 miles to the nearest RDC at UC Berkeley to access the restricted data, placing a significant constraint on their research capacity.
Marc Baldwin, Assistant Director of Forecasting for the State of Washington Office of Financial Management, suggests many efforts currently underway will benefit directly from the presence of a local RDC. Proposed projects include a study of the influence of wage ordinances on levels of poverty and inequality; an examination of globalization’s effects on declining trade costs; an analysis of the impact of Tolling on Low-income and Minority Populations in the Puget Sound; and a study of the relation between socioeconomic status and obesity rates in Seattle-King County, to name a few.
The Northwest Regional Data Center is funded by the Washington State Office of Financial Management, the UW College of Arts and Sciences, the UW Provost’s Office, the UW School of Social Work and a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Other cities with research data centers include Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; Durham, N.C.; and Minneapolis.
About the United States Census Bureau
In order to conduct research in an RDC, researchers must submit proposals to the Census Bureau for approval. The review process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures, strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to significant financial and legal penalties. For information about the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies and its research data center program, visit its website at http://www.ces.census.gov
About The College
The College of Arts & Sciences, founded 150 years ago, provides an education of tremendous breadth and depth to more than 27,000 students while advancing research and scholarship in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. The College has more than two dozen interdisciplinary centers and ties to many other centers, enabling scholars in diverse fields to collaborate on complex research questions in the humanities, demography, labor studies, law, astrobiology, climate change, and other areas.
The College faculty generates about $90 million in research funds annually, through public and private grants. The College also serves the community through the more than 280 performances, 60 exhibits and 100 public programs annually offered through the Henry Art Gallery, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, UW World Series, and Meany Hall for the Performing Arts.