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2018 Government Innovation Awards

Data mashups at government scale

The Census Bureau — the government’s original data agency — collaborated with the University of Chicago, University of Maryland and New York University to provide a secure cloud-based platform that allows government employees and academic researchers to take advantage of advanced data science tools.

Administrative Data Research Facility

Census Bureau

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The goal of the Administrative Data Research Facility is to give authorized users access to a secure supercomputer and thousands of datasets. It has received a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program moderate certification.

John Abowd, an associate director and chief scientist at the bureau, said it is the first such platform in the federal government. “The ADRF itself has done a huge service by providing a usable computing environment that meets [different users’] specific conditions, and [it] has the data science tools” for a range of projects, he added. In that way, “the Census Bureau made the investment on behalf of other agencies.”

The platform is being tested by users from multiple government organizations and so far hosts almost 50 confidential datasets from 12 agencies, supporting a variety of potential uses, Abowd said.

“Another government agency might want to do a program evaluation [and] combine its data with a cooperating agency, whether or not that analysis is something the Census Bureau wants to do,” he said. “The ADRF was designed for that.”

The platform has also helped the Census Bureau refine its ability to incorporate functionality and security into future projects. “The facility helped us streamline the way we get a cloud service properly secure to meet the standards of a Census Bureau [authority to operate],” Abowd said.

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