Enabling Evidenced-Based Policy: the Kentucky Research Data Center

By Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis T

Last week it was my distinct pleasure to join James Ziliak, Gatton Endowed Chair in Microeconomics and the executive director of the Kentucky Research Data Center (KRDC), for a reception and tour of this new center.

With the KRDC, the University of Kentucky joins an elite group of universities, and is the only one in the East Central region of the country, to be home to a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Federal Statistical Research Data Center.

KRDC, which will officially open in July, is maintained by a regional consortium of leading research institutions, including the University of Kentucky, Indiana University, The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Louisville. The center is located at UK in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Ziliak served as principal investigator on the highly-competitive NSF grant proposal to establish the KRDC, and the co-PIs are UK faculty members Chris Bollinger (Economics, Gatton College of Business and Economics), Eugenia Toma (Public Policy, Martin School of Public Policy and Administration), Glen Mays (Public Health, College of Public Health), and Derek Young (Statistics, College of Arts and Sciences).

This prestigious NSF grant will enable researchers at UK and in surrounding regions to have an immense economic, social and health-related impact and will move researchers forward in understanding factors that contribute to health and economic gaps in the Commonwealth and beyond.

In a secure data environment, researchers with approved projects will utilize scores of different federal statistical datasets from the Bureau of the Census, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Housing and Urban Development, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Department of Agriculture.

KRDC will enable research on topics spanning income inequality, poverty measurement and anti-poverty policies, education, health disparities across geographic regions, race and gender, domestic violence and substance use, food insecurity, immigration, and firm dynamics and government procurement processes.

For purposes of preserving respondent confidentiality, many major social, health and business surveys suppress identifying information such as state or county of residence from publicly released data. This inhibits certain forms of research, including tracking the health and economic status of individuals across states and over time, characterizing urban growth and decline, and statistical evaluation of the effectiveness of public policies.

However, restricted-access research data centers, such as the KRDC, permit these important research studies within a secure environment that ensures respondent confidentiality.

This center is one more example of how UK continues to build upon its national reputation for research collaboration across disciplines and across universities in our region. I encourage investigators to visit the KDRC website—krdc.uky.edu—to learn more about the available datasets and view the policies and procedures for research proposals.