FAQs About the Charlotte Regional Data Trust

What is the Charlotte Regional Data Trust?

Charlotte Regional Data Trust is a non-profit organization housed at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute that integrates administrative data on individuals across organizations and institutions. The mission of the organization and purpose of the data integration is to increase the community’s capacity for data-informed decision-making and advance university research that impacts the community and deepens understanding of complex community issues. 

Does the Charlotte Regional Data Trust do research with integrated data?

Yes. Through its affiliation with the UNC Charlotte and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, the Charlotte Regional Data Trust offers analytical support to assist organizations in their research and data analyses efforts. Organizations can contract separately with ISC and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to conduct research and/or program evaluations using integrated data.  The Charlotte Regional Data Trust also works to connect community organizations to faculty researchers whose subject matter expertise may be valuable to the organization.

How can I learn more about using the Charlotte Regional Data Trust Community Database for my research or to evaluate a community program?

Please email Sydney Idzikowski in order to learn more about the data we house and the services and research that the data make possible. 

How do I request access to the Integrated Data System?

Researchers who wish to use data must complete a data license request that details the research project, requested data fields, the research methodology and analyses that will be used, and the dissemination plan. The request is reviewed by the Data and Research Oversight Committee (DAROC) and if approved, the researcher will enter into a Limited License Agreement (LLA) to use the data with ISC.  De-identified data will then be securely transferred to the researcher. To begin this process, email Sydney Idzikowski.

How does the Charlotte Regional Data Trust protect the data held in the ISC Integrated Data System?

The data in our system is individual-level, identifiable data so that information can be linked across different sources. Because of the sensitive nature of personally identifiable information (PII), ISC has numerous policies and procedures in place to protect the data including legal, technical, procedural, and physical protections. The data sharing agreement ISC enters with each data depositor explicitly states the expectations of confidentiality and security. The current ISC data security approved by the Board of Directors can be obtained by emailing us.

PII is NEVER released to researchers. Researchers who would like to use data must first submit a Data License Request to the Data and Research Oversight Committee (DAROC). DAROC oversees the use of data for the Board of Directors and includes University researchers and members of the community, including a representative from each data depositor. The agency that owns the data being requested must approve the use of their data during the approval process. 

If a request is approved, the researcher will sign a Limited License Agreement (LLA) outlining how the data can and cannot be used. After the LLA is complete and requested data are integrated, Charlotte Regional Data Trust and DAROC members will review the dataset prior to release to ensure it meets the terms of the LLA and does not inadvertently identify any individual. Charlotte Regional Data Trust staff and DAROC monitor use and final release of research products to ensure compliance with the terms of the LLA and ensure that no individual is reidentified. 

How is administrative data used in research?

Administrative data is typically not collected for research purposes. It is useful data for researchers, however, because it often tells us who uses services, how often those services are used, and the outcomes of those services. If a researcher wanted to understand the impact of absenteeism on student test scores, the researcher could survey or interview individual students for this information. However, this information already exists as administrative data. Researchers can use the administrative data instead to reduce the research burden on the students and teachers and reduce the cost of data collection. In addition, with administrative data, researchers can often access a larger sample or study a whole population instead of a sample (e.g., children experiencing literal homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg). A larger sample allows researchers to use more analytic tools and can result in more statistically powerful results.

What administrative data does the Charlotte Regional Data Trust hold?

We are always in the process of negotiating data sharing agreements with local government and non-profit agencies. The Charlotte Regional Data Trust currently has data sharing agreements with the following organizations, among others:

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)
  • Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS)
  • Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)
  • Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)
  • Cardinal Innovations Healthcare
What are the benefits for a data depositor?

In addition to the community benefits available to a data depositor, additional partner benefits include:

  • Understand your organizational data in the context of other organizations and institutions.
  • Use a mature and vetted data governance structure instead of recreating processes to share, link, and license use of data.
  • Gain feedback on your organization’s data quality.
  • Access the ISC data steward program that in partnership with the School of Data Science, provides a graduate student steward to assess, inventory, and make recommendations on an organization’s current data culture and infrastructure.
  • Access UNC Charlotte Urban Institute research staff and UNC Charlotte faculty researchers to assist in understanding your organizational data.
What are the benefits for the community?

The Charlotte Regional Data Trust creates the opportunity to integrate fragmented community data for citizen and community benefit. Benefits include:

  • A deeper and more nuanced understanding of multifaceted issues that span organizational and institutional silos.
  • Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg – Integrated data provided insight on how individuals experiencing chronic homelessness are engaged in multiple health and human services.
  • The capacity to understand the impact of an intervention across organizations and institutions. For example, Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte used integrated data described the longitudinal impact of homeownership on families use of community services and children’s educational outcomes. The Housing Instability and Homelessness Report Series uses integrated data described a group of children in emergency shelter who were not accessing available services at school. Salvation Army and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools responded with new supports and training to ensure children are connected to services.
  • The ability to identify areas where organizations can work better together.
What data variables are available in the Charlotte Regional Data Trust?

The specific variables available and their metadata are available upon request. To discuss available data, contact Sydney Idzikowski.

What does the Charlotte Regional Data Trust have to do with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute?

The Charlotte Regional Data Trust integrated with the Urban Institute in 2012. The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is a nonpartisan, applied research and community outreach center. Founded in 1969, it provides services including technical assistance and training in operations and data management; public opinion surveys; and research and analysis around economic, environmental, and social issues affecting the Charlotte region.

The Charlotte Regional Data Trust is now a critical resource used in the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s work. All team members are Urban Institute staff, working on research and community projects that do and do not utilize the Charlotte Regional Data Trust Community Database.

What is administrative data?

Administrative data is the information that organizations and agencies collect in the process of their daily work. This information includes demographic data such as race and age, program use information, and outcome information like student attendance or arrest records.

What is an integrated data system?

An integrated data system (IDS) holds administrative data from multiple organizations and can match information across these organizations at the individual level. For example, the information about students served by a school can be matched to data from the Department of Social Services (DSS) so that a school can better understand its students and DSS can decide where to offer services. Or, a nonprofit organization can match its program list to multiple agencies to learn how programs impacted clients and how to better serve them. An IDS can combine data to create a more complete description of how policies and programs impact the individuals they serve. 

Who contributes administrative data to the Charlotte Regional Data Trust Community Database?

ISC has over 40 signed data sharing agreements with organizations and institutions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. We are always in the process of negotiating data sharing agreements with local government and non-profit agencies. For the full list of ISC Data Partners contact Sydney Idzikowski