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Restricted Microdata Program

Virginia Tech has entered into an agreement with Georgetown University through 2024 to allow four approved projects access to restricted microdata through the Georgetown Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC).  

The information below provides background information and the proposal approval process for new projects.

To begin:

  1. Register intent to apply with ISCE by clicking here.

  2. Work with the Georgetown Research Data Center administrator to develop and submit a proposal. Click on the tab below for more information.

  3. Upon approval from the Georgetown Research Data Center, submit a request to ISCE for individual project funds, if needed (see below).

If you are not familiar with the requirements related to working with restricted data, be sure to read the background information before proceeding.

To learn more about the Center for Economic Studies and the research of FSRDC's, read the 2018 annual report (see particularly Appendix 2 & 3).

ISCE Support for Approved Projects

Although ISCE paid the one-time member fee which covers the development and administrative support for the four research projects, faculty investigators are responsible for individual project fees, such as data extraction, preparation, and linkage fees, etc.  

To assist Virginia Tech faculty who receive approval for a project, ISCE will provide awards up to  $5,000 to help cover the costs of implementing the project including travel to Georgetown (or other FSRDCs) to access the data, student wages, data fees, and other related expenses.

Prior to applying for ISCE funds, investigators are encouraged to meet with Isabel Bradburn with ISCE to discuss the project, timeline and anticipated expenses.

Interested faculty may also contact Isabel Bradburn to request to view a recording of a 2021 presentation by Amy O'Hara about the sources of available data and the current approval process especially given changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A FSRDC is a secure Federal facility that provides approved researchers access to restricted microdata from multiple federal agencies (e.g., Census Bureau) that aids faculty in their studies of economic and workforce issues, health and health care, and statistics and demographics.

The Georgetown FSRDC (RDC) is managed by an on-site Census employee (the Administrator) who guides researchers on proposal development, enforces security guidelines, and serves as liaison with the research community.

The Center has 12 client workstations to access FSRDC servers and secure communications that tunnel over the Georgetown campus internet.

Requirements for Using an FSRDC

  • Research projects must undergo a formal approval process with the agency that owns the data (e.g., Census, NCHS, BLS).
  • Researchers must work with the Georgetown RDC Administrator to craft final proposal.
  • Researchers must go through a background investigation that qualifies them for “Special Sworn Status (SSS)” which makes them an unpaid Census Bureau employee.
  • All analysis must be conducted in a FSRDC lab.
  • Results must be formally reviewed for disclosure violation before they leave the secure facility.
Click here to view a Powerpoint presentation by the Georgetown RDC Administrator for more information.
Contact Isabel Bradburn to request to view a recording of a 2021 presentation by Amy O'Hara about the sources of available data and the current approval process especially given changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin the process of developing a proposal, Virginia Tech faculty need to contact the Georgetown RDC Administrator to discuss data availability, project budget and timeline, and other proposal requirements. Click here for more information and here to contact the Administrator.
Proposals must address:
  • Basic requirements
  • Need for non-public data
  • Maintenance of confidentiality
  • Emphases on statistical models vs. tabular output
  • Feasibility
  • Benefits  (Requirement for Census Bureau and BLS)
  • Scientific merit
Note: It takes a significant amount of time for projects to be approved. Timeline is dependent on agency approval process. After approval, it takes approximately 3 additional months to obtain security clearance. Approval rates differ by agencies.
For example, the Census Bureau typically takes 4-6 months on average to approve a project and has a 70% acceptance rate whereas nearly 100% of NCHS projects are accepted.

Several Federal Statistical Agencies make available restricted data for FSRDC approved projects. In addition to the Bureau of the Census, data is available from the following agencies:

  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
  • Statistics of Income Division (Internal Revenue Service)
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics, Energy Information Administration
  • National Center for Health Statistics, Bureau of Transportation Statistics
  • Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics (Social Security Administration)for more information.