IDEA Handbook

map of the world with data points overlay


The Innovations in Data and Experiments for Action Initiative (IDEA) invited selected authors to contribute to the forthcoming Handbook on Using Administrative Data for Research and Evidence-Based Policy (IDEA Handbook), supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The IDEA handbook will be edited by Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School), Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL), Anja Sautmann (J-PAL), and Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University).

The IDEA Handbook will serve as a go-to reference for researchers seeking to use administrative data and for data providers looking to make their data accessible for research. The handbook will be published online under an open licensing model and freely available to all. It will provide information, best practices, and case studies on how to create privacy-protected access to, handle, and analyze administrative data, with the aim of pushing the research frontier as well as informing evidence-based policy innovations.

In addition to an introduction by Daniel L. Goroff of the Sloan Foundation and an overview of administrative data, the handbook will include a range of chapters by contributing authors, reflecting diverse applications and a deep knowledge of administrative data in research and evidence-based policy. The first edition of the handbook is expected in August 2020.

Part 1 – Technical Chapters

The first section of the handbook will provide guidance on specific topics common to most data access efforts. The summary sections in Part 1 condense the case studies into recommendations, best practices, and explicit guidance by the editors of this handbook. Additional thematic chapters focus on particular issues, such as ethics, privacy, or legal framework. These chapters augment the range of topics touched upon in the case studies, and provide normative answers to future questions not raised by the historical case studies.

Table  1 Technical Chapters
Author Subject
Daniel L. Goroff (Sloan Foundation) Foreword
Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School)
Iqbal Dhaliwal (J-PAL)
Anja Sautmann (J-PAL)
Jim Shen (J-PAL)
Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University)
Overview of the administrative data landscape
Jim Shen (J-PAL)
Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University)
Data access mechanisms, physical data security
Amy O’Hara (Georgetown University) Constructing sound data use agreements for access to administrative data
Kathleen Murphy (Northwestern University, ret.)     Collaborating with the IRB when conducting human research with administrative data

Part 2 – Case Studies

The selected case study contributions in this handbook cover a broad spectrum of possible scenarios, problems, and solutions, and data access mechanisms around the world, with a focus on providing lessons applicable to the US context. We provide examples from national, sub-national, local, and private-sector instances of data provision. Examples focus on, but are not limited to, data providers who work with researchers conducting randomized experiments with the data provided.

Table  2 Case Studies
Author Chapter Subject
Eric Bettinger (Stanford University)
Moonhawk Kim (San Francisco Unified School District, former)
Norma Ming (San Francisco Unified School District)
Michelle Reininger (Stanford University)
Jim Shen (Stanford University, former)
Laura Wentworth (California Education Partners)
Development of data-sharing structures and processes in the Stanford-SFUSD Partnership
Hugh Cole (City of Cape Town)
Kelsey Jack (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Brendan Maughan-Brown (J-PAL Africa)
Derek Strong (University of California, Santa Barbara)
City of Cape Town’s work with researchers to make City administrative data more accessible for research
Donna Curtis-Maillet (University of New Brunswick)
Ted McDonald (University of New Brunswick)
Experiences establishing the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT)
Joshua D. Hawley (Ohio State University) The development of the Ohio Longitudinal Data Archive by the State of Ohio and Ohio State University
Laura Feeney (J-PAL North America)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Use of health care provider administrative data for a randomized evaluation of clinical decision support
Leslie Jeng (Private Capital Research Institute)
Josh Lerner (Harvard Business School)
How to make private data (from private capital markets) accessible to academic researchers
Vivi Alatas (World Bank)
Farah Amalia (J-PAL Southeast Asia)
Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Rema Hanna (Harvard Kennedy School)
Benjamin A. Olken (MIT)
Sudarno Sumarto (SMERU Research Institute)
Putu Poppy Widyasari (J-PAL Southeast Asia)
Administrative data sharing with the Government of Indonesia
Philipp vom Berge (Institute for Employment Research)
Dana Müller (Institute for Employment Research)
IAB data access for international researchers and technical, financial, and legal challenges.
Maria Ruth Jones (World Bank)
Arianna Legovini (World Bank) 
Vincenzo di Maro (World Bank)
The use of administrative data for research and evaluation at the World Bank
Era Dabla-Norris (International Monetary Fund)
Federico Diez (International Monetary Fund)
Romain Alexandre Duval (International Monetary Fund)
Opportunities and challenges with using administrative data for research at the International Monetary Fund

More about the IDEA Handbook

While IDEA’s work continues and the handbook is finalized, please watch this space for updates and information about accessing the Handbook on Using Administrative Data for Research and Evidence-Based Policy online through an open source framework. Our goal is for the handbook to be a living document, with new use cases, examples, and technical content added as this innovative and quickly-evolving field of research grows and expands.

As part of the collaborative process of writing, editing, and compiling the handbook, contributing authors and discussants will gather in Cambridge for the IDEA Conference. For more information about the IDEA Conference, please see the conference page or contact Evan Williams.

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