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MIT Libraries’ Program on Information Science awarded Sloan Foundation grant

Funding will support the development of tools for sharing confidential research data while retaining data privacy.

This January, the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation awarded $868,954 to a joint MIT-Harvard University project focused on developing easy-to-use tools for sharing confidential research data while retaining data privacy. The project, led by Micah Altman, director of research for the MIT Libraries and head/scientist for the Program on Information Science, will begin in April. It aims to leverage ongoing multidisciplinary collaborations and theoretical advances in computation, statistics, law, and social science to improve reuse and replicability in empirical social science, promoting archiving of, and access to, large-scale confidential data. Areas of focus include designing a blueprint for securing large-scale confidential archival data in the Dataverse repository, as well as expanding research collaborations to engage with ongoing data privacy and dissemination efforts at MIT and Harvard, among other objectives. The work contributes to the capacity of the libraries to support researchers in managing confidential information.

“Both academic research and information services are increasingly based on detailed digital information about people and their behavior,” Altman says. “Although personal information is being produced and collected at an exponentially increased rate, there is no broadly standardized way of describing and managing private information in research. This project will provide understandable, usable tools and policies for managing confidential research data.”

Altman is joined in the 30-month project by four Harvard collaborators: Mercè Crosas, director of data science at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Gary King the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor in Harvard's Department of Government; and Salil Vadhan, the Vicky Joseph Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and director of Harvard's Center for Research on Computation and Society. This collaboration builds upon a previous successful project supported by a National Science Foundation Frontier grant.

For more information see the Program on Information Science website.

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