University of Wisconsin–Madison

Cool new research data center comes to UW Campus

It’s no secret that I love data.

My background is in microeconomics, analyzing government data on labor markets, economic well-being and public policy. It wasn’t by accident that I got hired to be the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2009. Among other things, that meant overseeing the data collection and reporting efforts of the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Statistics. From my perspective, there was nothing more fun than getting briefed on the details of the latest GDP release or the latest income statistics.

So I am excited about the opening of the Wisconsin Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC) on our campus. The center, located on the third floor of the Sewell Social Sciences Building, will be dedicated on Sept. 21.

The FSRDC allows researchers to access data available only to those with certified and valuable research projects. Among other things, it allows researchers to merge administrative data with survey information.

This is a highly collaborative interdisciplinary endeavor with faculty from six schools and colleges – Agricultural and Life Sciences, Business, Education, Human Ecology, Letters & Science, and Medicine and Public Health – participating in the research.

While 23 FSRDCs have been opened at other universities, this is the first to be opened without funding from the National Science Foundation. Instead, those six schools and colleges pooled resources to fund the center. This center grew entirely from the commitment of our dedicated faculty and staff. Their determination to bring this critical research tool to UW–Madison was sufficient to defeat some major challenges along the way.

This facility will serve researchers throughout the state, both within and outside of the UW System. Prior to this, researchers had to travel to Chicago or Minneapolis to access the data.

Ultimately, the work done at the FSRDC will yield new insights that can help our national and state leaders to make the best possible decisions about how and where to invest public resources. It will provide valuable data to study demographic change, economic circumstances, health issues and the impact and operation of public policies.

These FSRDCs are all about providing more data and better data. To a social scientist like myself, that’s about the most exciting thing you can make happen.

The facility will be officially kicked off with an event at 1 p.m. Monday in Union South. If you are interested in learning more about the FSRDC, go to (http://rdc.wisc.edu).