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RDC Frequently Asked Questions


Question: How long is the review process?
Answer: The estimated time to review a proposal is 6-8 weeks.

Question: If I make a change to my proposal, do I need to submit a new proposal?
Answer: This depends on what type of change is made. Please discuss the changes with your assigned RDC Analyst. We recommend that you turn on the "track changes" feature when revising your proposal so that we can focus on the updates. Note that modifying or adding to an existing dataset may result in additional charges. For details see Amending Your Proposal.

Question: After my proposal has been accepted, what do I do next?
Answer: Complete any required paperwork and prepare the dataset with the public use variables you have selected. For details see Approved Projects – Next Steps.


Question: How much does it cost to use the NCHS RDC?
Answer: The base fee is $750 per day of set up. Typically, to create a small, simple file, the $750 is sufficient. However, additional fees may be added for more complex datasets. There are also usage fees that differ by your mode of access. For details, see User Fees.

Question: Is there a discount, or will you waive fees for students?
Answer: No. However, your advisor may be able to assist you with applying for research grants for your project.

On site procedures

Question: Can I merge my dataset in the RDC?
Answer: No. For most NCHS data sets, you provide the public use variables and any other external data you wish to use in your analysis. Your RDC Analyst will merge the data provided by you to the confidential variables in advance of your visit. This allows us to maintain security and assure that your dataset is ready for you when you visit.

Question: Can I bring statistical programming code with me?
Answer: Yes and no. We encourage you to email code to your RDC Analyst ahead of time. This way the Analyst can load it onto your computer before your visit. Flash drives are not permitted in the RDC. Although we provide some manuals, we also encourage you to bring resources that will help you (programming books, survey questionnaires, etc.).

Question: How do I get my output?
Answer: : During analysis, you can save your results on the hard drive of the RDC computer. Please review these results and when you have decided exactly what output you need for your publication, please ask your RDC Analyst to review that output. After disclosure review, if there are no concerns, your RDC Analyst will email the output to you.

Question: How long will it take for me to receive my output?
Answer: Review of output from a Census RDC can take up to 3 weeks and review of output from an NCHS RDC can take up to 5 business days. Review time depends on the volume and complexity of the output and staff workload. We do our best to return output to you in a timely manner, but please allow for the review time.

Question: Can I request special analysis software to use onsite?
Answer: Please see the list of software available at the NCHS RDCs. We do not provide technical assistance with any software.

Question: What kind of help can the RDC provide for computer programming?
Answer: It is expected that you will know the basics of the analyses you wish to carry out. SUDAAN and SAS software manuals are available.

Use of electronic devices within the RDC

Question: Can I use my laptop in the RDC?
Answer: No.

Question: Can I use my cell phone within the RDC?
Answer: No.

Question: Can I check my e-mail within the RDC?
Answer: No.

Question: Is wireless Internet access available elsewhere within the NCHS building?
Answer: No.

Question: Will I have any access to the Internet inside of the RDC?
Answer: No.

Question: Can I download software from the Internet within the RDC?
Answer: No. If you need add-ons to standard software, discuss this in advance with your RDC Analyst.

Question: Can I use remote access to the RDC if I find I need to run additional analyses after I have left?
Answer: You will need to update your proposal, but this may be possible.

Remote Procedures

Question: What software is available remotely?
Answer: SAS, and SAS callable SUDAAN.

Question: How do I send in my programs?
Answer: You will receive detailed instructions when you are registered for the remote system. You will send your program by e-mail and, after disclosure review, you will receive your output files by e-mail.

Question: Can I use a free web mail account (such as AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo) to access the remote system?
Answer: No. You must use a secure e-mail system through a government, university, medical or research institution portal.

Question: Can more than one person use the same remote access account, for instance, me and my programmer?
Answer: No. For security reasons, remote system is set up to handle only one user per project. You will want to think carefully about who that person should be. The results will be sent to only one secure, designated e-mail address registered with the remote system user database.

Question: Can I create a permanent combined dataset through the remote system?
Answer: No. While you may create temporary files for use during a program run, writing a permanent dataset to the hard drive is prohibited by our agreement with you, as is any output revealing individual level data from such a file.

Question: I wish to use SPSS but live too far away and don't have the time to travel to the NCHS RDC. What are my alternatives?
Answer: We encourage all clients to visit and work in the RDC in person before submitting programs remotely. If you can't get here, perhaps you can send a programmer or someone else to act for you. Or you can register with a local Census Bureau RDC and run your analyses there.

Data Hosting

Questions: Where can I access these data?
Answer: Data available for data hosting is generally available for access on-site at a NCHS RDC (Hyattsville and Atlanta). Other modes of access are dependent upon the agreements we have with the data owners, for more information visit the data owner’s webpage or contact the RDC .

Questions: How do I request access to these data?
Answer: : Please follow the RDC Proposal Process, specifically use the Proposal Format. Any modifications to the proposal process have been outlined on the data owner’s website.

Questions: Are there fees to access these data?
Answer: Please visit the data owner’s webpage for information about fees

Questions: Do I have to complete the confidentiality orientation and submit the confidentiality documents?
Answer: Yes, all researchers accessing data must complete the confidentiality orientation and submit confidentiality forms. Researchers are also required to complete any additional confidentiality paperwork listed by the data owner’s .

Questions: Will my output be reviewed using the RDC guidelines outlined in the Disclosure Review Manual?
Answer: Yes, the RDC will follow the output review guidelines outlined in the RDC disclosure review manual. However, if the data owners have more rigorous requirements then the RDC will follow the data owner’s guidelines.

Questions: How long will it take to review my output?
Answer: Output review differs by the mode of access:

  • NCHS RDC Users (Hyattsville, MD or Atlanta, GA): Output can be submitted for review at the conclusion of the research project OR once per week. It will be returned within 5 business days unless a more extensive review is required.
  • Census RDC Users: Output will be reviewed and returned within 3 weeks of submission.
  • Remote Access Users: Output should be received within a few hours. If it takes longer, please contact the Remote Access Team.