Where's the Data: A New Approach to Social Science Search & Discovery

3:30 - 4:00 | Thursday, May 23

The social sciences are at a crossroads. The great challenges of our time are human in nature - terrorism, climate change, the use of natural resources, and the nature of work - and require robust social science to understand the sources and consequences. Yet the lack of reproducibility and replicability evident in many fields is even more acute in the study of human behavior both because of the difficulty of sharing confidential data and because of the lack of scientific infrastructure. Much of the core infrastructure is manual and ad-hoc in nature, threatening the legitimacy and utility of social science research.

A major challenge is search and discovery. The vast majority of social science data and outputs cannot be easily discovered by other researchers even when nominally deposited in the public domain. A new generation of automated search tools could help researchers discover how data are being used, in what research fields, with what methods, with what code and with what findings. And automation can be used to reward researchers who validate the results and contribute additional information about use, fields, methods, code, and findings. In sum, the use of data depends critically on knowing how it has been produced and used before: the required elements what do the data measure, what research has been done by what researchers, with what code, and with what results.

In this presentation I describe the work that we are doing to build and develop automated tools to create the equivalent of an Amazon.com or TripAdvisor for the access and use of confidential microdata.

Julia Lane
Economist and Professor, New York University

Julia Lane is a Professor at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress, and a NYU Provostial Fellow for Innovation Analytics. She cofounded the Coleridge Initiative, whose goal is to use data to transform the way governments access and use data for the social good through training programs, research projects and a secure data facility. The approach is attracting national attention, including the Commission on Evidence Based Policy and the Federal Data Strategy.

Previous to this, Julia was a Senior Managing Economist and Institute Fellow at American Institutes for Research. In this role Julia co-founded the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan. Julia has held positions at the National Science Foundation, The Urban Institute, The World Bank, American University and NORC at the University at Chicago.

In these positions, Julia has led many initiatives, including co-founding the Institute for Research and Innovation in Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan and STAR METRICS programs at the National Science Foundation. She also initiated and led the creation and permanent establishment of the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program at the U.S. Census Bureau. This program began as a small two year ASA Census Bureau fellowship and evolved into the first large-scale linked employer-employee dataset in the United States. It is now a permanent Census Bureau program with appropriated funds of $11 million per year.

Julia has published over 80 articles in leading economics journals, and authored or edited ten books. She is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Statistical Institute and a fellow of the American Statistical Association. She has been the recipient of over $70 million in grants; from foundations such as the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Overdeck Family Foundation, the Schmidt Futures Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; from government agencies such as the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Health and Human Services in the U.S., the ESRC in the U.K., and the Department of Labour and Statistics New Zealand in New Zealand, as well as from international organizations such as the World Bank. Julia is the recipient of the 2014 Julius Shiskin award and the 2014 Roger Herriot award. She is also the recipient of the 2017 Warren E. Miller Award.

Julia received her PhD in Economics and Master’s in Statistics from the University of Missouri.