New Secured Research Center at the U Will Hold Trove of Federal Data

SALT LAKE CITY — The state's academic researchers will soon have significantly easier access to restricted-use federal data thanks to a new data center coming to the University of Utah next year.

The so-named Wasatch Front Research Data Center will be installed at the Carolyn and Kem C. Gardner Commons on campus and is expected to be ready for use in about a year, according to U. spokeswoman Brooke Adams.

The center will be designated as a Federal Statistical Research Data Center — of which there are currently 29 nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The closest such facility opened at the University of Colorado Boulder last year.

The centers are designed as secure locations where heavily protected and sensitive federal demographic data can be accessed for research. Traveling to one out of state is necessary for many academic researchers in Utah and can be time and cost intensive, said Ken Smith, distinguished professor of family sciences at the U. and director of the Utah Population Database.

"They have to go to some other place to do the work, so it is very inconvenient, it's expensive," Smith told the Deseret News. "If you fly to (Washington), D.C. or Boulder, Colorado, or Seattle … you'd have to go there and arrange (to stay) for a week.

"So it's a cost issue. And getting (research grants is) difficult, so if you have to put a bunch of money in there for travel, and your time, it obviously makes you less competitive no matter how strong your idea is."

The U. "found at least 50 important research projects underway in Utah that would benefit from access to the center," Adams said in a release.

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Deseret News Tue, 08/07/2018 - 09:31