University of Michigan

To facilitate data access by developing a broadly accepted system of researcher credentialing

  • Amount $398,516
  • City Ann Arbor, MI
  • Investigator Margaret Levenstein
  • Initiative Empirical Economic Research Enablers (EERE)
  • Year 2016
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance

Suppose you, as a researcher, have succeeded in wrangling important and sensitive data from a government or corporate source, data that is valuable to the research community. Because your data are sensitive, however, you want to share only with appropriately trained and responsible scholars who can be trusted to treat the data ethically. Suppose now a request comes in from someone who wants to study the data. What do you do? Not every researcher is savvy about the technical, privacy, or legal compliance issues related to sensitive administrative data. You could investigate the individual and draft an agreement for them to sign. But starting from scratch to answer each new request, with all the associated inefficiencies, is time consuming and costly. Wouldn’t it be much better if you could begin instead by asking your data seeker for some standard researcher certification, a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that would indicate what kind of training and track record they have? This grant funds a project by Maggie Levenstein, executive director of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), to design, test, implement, and promote just such a researcher credentialing system for use by her own and other institutions holding sensitive administrative data. The widespread adoption of such a system could significantly decrease the transaction costs associated with access to administrative data, increase the analysis of important though sensitive datasets, and promote responsible training and research protocols concerning preregistration, anonymization, reproducibility, and other research practices.

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