Integrated Administrative Data for Early Childhood Iowa: A Governance Model to inform Policy and Program Collaboration

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Heather L Rouse
Cassandra J Dorius
Jeffery Anderson
Elizabeth JD Richey
Published online: Oct 11, 2018


In response to demands on public systems to do more, do better, and cost less, the value of integrated administrative data systems (IDS) for social policy is increasing (Fantuzzo & Culhane, 2016). This is particularly relevant in programming for young children where services are historically fragmented, disconnected from systems serving school-aged children, and siloed among health, human services, and education agencies. Guided by the vision that Iowa’s early childhood system will be effectively and efficiently coordinated to support healthy families, we are developing an early childhood IDS to address this disconnection and facilitate relevant and actionable social policy research.


Iowa’s IDS is a state-university partnership that acknowledges the need for agencies to retain control of their data while enabling it to be integrated across systems for social policy research. The innovative governance model deliberately incorporates procedures for stakeholder engagement at critical tension points between executive leaders, program managers, researchers, and practitioners. Standing committees (Governance Board, Data Stewardship, and Core team) authorize and implement the work of the IDS, while ad-hoc committees are solicited for specific projects to advise and translate research into practice.


This paper will articulate the Iowa IDS governance model that was informed by means tested principles articulated by the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy Network. It will include our collaborative development process; articulated mission and principles that guided discussions about legal authorization, governance, and use cases; and the establishment of governance committees to implement our vision for ethical and efficient use of administrative data for social policy.


With legal frameworks changing, administrative data can increasingly be utilised both for official statistics and to facilitate new research, enabling the development of evidence-based policy for the public benefit. Secure access conditions generally apply to using these rich, highly detailed data. However, using data from various sources is difficult when they are fragmented in “silos” between several Research Data Centres (RDCs) as can happen at a national level, and is very likely to be the case at an international level. This is a major obstacle for international comparative research. Based on user consultations, on discussions with international organisations such as OECD and Eurostat and based on lessons learned from projects as, “Data without Boundaries” and the “Nordic Microdata Access Network”, IDAN aims to create a concrete operational international framework enabling access to controlled data for research. IDAN, founded in 2018, involves six RDCs from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Initially, the partners’ access systems are being implemented in each partners' premise based on bilateral agreements. This process involves combining requirements of security and surveillance for Safe Rooms, thus paving the way for next steps toward an integrated RDCs network. This presentation will describe how IDAN is setting up a new concrete environment for researchers to work remotely with data from the other partners within their local RDC. The paper will present first project developments, lessons and impact for research that are also of interest for national contexts where administrative data are held in multiple data centres.

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