$38M NSF data infrastructure initiative will improve access to social and behavioral research

February 4, 2022

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research will oversee a $38 million investment from the National Science Foundation to create a new data platform that will help researchers across the gamut of scientific disciplines access, collect, store and secure vital information.

Data-intensive scientific research on human behavior and society can help improve community resilience to natural disasters, avoid supply chain disruptions and accurately predict infectious disease outbreaks, and more. However, researchers in many disciplines have faced obstacles like incompatible data standards, missing or error-filled information and technical difficulties in managing large data sets.

“Imagine a researcher attempting to understand economic growth in small towns and why some towns prosper while others don’t. This project makes such transformative work possible by standardizing and organizing complex data from hundreds of different sources, so it can be analyzed and understood in new ways,” said economist and project leader Margaret Levenstein, director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research at ISR.

The $38 million commitment, developed and funded by the NSF, will establish the Research Data Ecosystem: A National Resource for Reproducible, Robust, and Transparent Social Science Research in the 21st Century. ISR will oversee the creation of new data archives and software researchers can use to access, organize, analyze and contribute data.

“To truly leverage the societal benefits of science, researchers across the U.S. must be able to access and analyze critical data with greater efficiency while simultaneously maintaining rigorous standards for privacy and scientific integrity,” said Kellina Craig-Henderson, acting NSF assistant director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. “The Research Data Ecosystem project will modernize the management and use of many types of people-centered data, thus accelerating multidisciplinary research focused on serving society and improving the lives of people all over the country.”

The project tackles the urgent need for new modes of access, confidentiality protection, methodology and tools that enable research using a wide variety of data types. Scientists across the U.S. conducting people-centered, data-intensive research will have the ability to securely access and contribute to the data archives.

This NSF investment directly supports faculty, staff and graduate students involved in developing the software to access and search the data archives. Training opportunities and support for graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and researchers to effectively build, manage and protect the archives will be provided.

The Research Data Ecosystem project will modernize data collection and management to maximize the scientific value of people-centered data, enabling efficient and innovative multidisciplinary research focused on serving society and improving the lives of people in the U.S.

“We’re excited about the numerous ways that the Research Data Ecosystem will engage current and future scholars,” said ISR director Kate Cagney. “ISR’s long history of innovation in data collection and analysis makes us uniquely positioned to build this platform to support and enhance social scientific inquiry.”

NSF’s Mid-scale Research Infrastructure II program

Contact:
Dory Knight-Ingram, 734-615-7904, dkni@umich.edu
Morgan Sherburne, 734-647-1844, morganls@umich.edu