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National Science Foundation Secure Data Access Facility

Close up of complex array of wires at network server
Ensuring security while expanding access to data on science and engineering graduates
  • Client
    National Science Foundation
  • Dates
    2009 - Present


Survey data on doctoral education trends were difficult to access.  

Since 1958, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has collected annual data on the number and characteristics of individuals receiving research doctoral degrees from all accredited U.S. institutions. These data, which come from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), are vital to education and labor-force planners in government and academia. Results are used to assess the characteristics of the U.S.-trained doctoral scientists and engineers and trends in doctoral education and degrees. In the first decades of these surveys, researchers had to travel to a federal facility to access the data. Later, data became available on CD-ROMs through a license application process, but researchers could only open the content in a locked room subject to unannounced inspection.    


NORC made the sensitive data available from our secure Data Enclave. 

NORC partnered with Metadata Technology North America (MTNA) to build, refine, and sustain the NCSES Restricted Use Data Onboarding Portal and Secure Data Access Facility (SDAF), hosted within the NORC Data Enclave®, creating a convenient, secure end-to-end experience for NCSES license coordinators and researchers. In 2019, researchers migrated from the traditional data licensing model to a secure remote access model, allowing secure access to the data nationwide. Authorized researchers securely utilize NCSES microdata through the SDAF, a virtual, collaborative workspace in which the Enclave’s powerful analytical tools can be used to remotely analyze NCSES data from anywhere.


More researchers and policymakers can use SDR and SED data to inform their work.    

The SDAF now supports almost 300 researchers across the country. It hosts NCSES data and metadata from the SED, SDR, National Survey of College Graduates, National Survey of Recent College Graduates, and other restricted-use and public-use data, as requested and under the direction of NSF. Access to the Enclave has enabled over 150 research products, including articles, working papers, reports, book chapters, dissertations, theses, and presentations.

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