Social scientists and health researchers from across Colorado and neighboring states will soon have abundant U.S. Census and other federal statistical data available to them in a secure setting at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The National Science Foundation this month awarded $300,000 over three years to CU-Boulder to create the Rocky Mountain Research Data Center (RMRDC), which will be housed in the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS).
The center joins a relatively exclusive group of 19 others across the U.S. and is expected to be a boon for researchers and raise the profile of CU-Boulder to prospective faculty and graduate students.
“Graduate students’ ability to do original research will be much, much stronger,” said Keith Maskus, an economics professor and principal investigator on the project. “We will be training generations of graduate students who will have far better familiarity with data and how to use big data sets. That will lead them directly into new kinds of careers.”
Nearly all major research institutions near CU-Boulder will use and support the center, including the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, University of Colorado Denver, the Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Colorado state government.
“The new connections with universities and laboratories in Colorado and Wyoming will increase the breadth of our intellectual networks and the speed with which major social problems are analyzed,” IBS Director Myron Gutmann said.
Projects approved for data access must advance scientific knowledge and simultaneously deliver tangible benefits to the federal statistical system.
One set of planned projects will study how the movement of U.S. production overseas affects employment and wages across locations and occupations. Another will consider how mineral and energy extraction influences state and local economies. Spatial scientists, meanwhile, will use the data to improve population estimates for small geographic areas and methods of disseminating data for the U.S. Census Bureau.
Health scientists plan to combine restricted population data with health data from the National Center for Health Statistics to ask questions about how local socioeconomic characteristics affect health behavior and outcomes, including declines in teenage birth rates, increased early life mortality and the protective influences within Hispanic neighborhoods.