Research at the University of Wisconsin will get a major boost after a U.S. Census Bureau Research Data Center arrives on campus in 2015.
The center will bring access to federal microdata, data about individual people in the U.S. and individual firms, allowing for more tailored information. Most information that can currently be found online averages data from groups of people, according to Brent Hueth, a UW professor of agricultural and applied economics and the executive director of the RDC.
“I had a project, my own project to identify corporate surveys, and I had to go to Chicago to do the research,” Hueth said. “I thought given the importance of research on campus, lots of other people would like to use it here.”
The center will allow interdisciplinary research to grow on campus, creating a place where researchers can interact with students and professors from different fields, Hueth said.
Many different departments supported and contributed funds to the project, including the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Letters and Sciences, the Wisconsin School of Business, the School of Medicine and Public Health, the School of Education, the School of Human Ecology, the Graduate School and the Office of the Provost.
John Mullahy, a UW population health sciences professor, said health researchers will benefit from the wealth of data they will be able to access.
“The RDC has access to not just census data, but also disease control and prevention information, which provides a lot of important statistics about health in the United States,” Mullahy said. “It is much more detailed on how health-related factors are being played out at very local levels.”
The Applied Population Lab on campus will also be able to put some of its data into the center and correlate findings with other statistics, giving it more data to use, Hueth said.
Hueth said in addition to interdisciplinary research, state government will be able to link its data with federal data, helping it come up with effective policies for business creation, economic development and social programs.
“My hopes and goals for the center are that we are very quickly able to show the value and interest that the RDC has amongst researchers and students, and because of that, I hope we will be able to maintain a very active center,” Mullahy said. “We need the support from the research community.”
Hueth said it took many people and departments to make this happen, with four main people stepping up.
The center was a combined effort of UW professor Timothy Smeeding, UW business professor Russell Coff, Mullahy and Hueth.
“The Census Bureau Research Data Center allows for much more power in research,” Hueth said.
Correction: In a previous version of this post, Timothy Smeeding was listed as the head of the Institute for Research on Poverty, a post which he no longer holds. Updates have since been made.