Using the UT Dallas ERC

An Overview of the Process

The UT Dallas Education Research Center (ERC) welcomes proposals from qualified researchers seeking to conduct research projects that require access to the controlled Texas student-level data collection.

Due to the stipulations of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the rules governing the Education Research Center program:

  • Researchers conduct projects using the ERC data as affiliates of the UT Dallas ERC.
  • All ERC projects accessing the confidential data collection are assigned to the UT Dallas ERC by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on the advice of an Advisory Board.
  • The Advisory Board meets quarterly to review and evaluate proposals for such projects.

To initiate an ERC project, the UT Dallas ERC submits a proposal for review by the Advisory Board. Proposals are frequently for projects to be conducted by researchers from other institutions, who, under an agreement with the UT Dallas ERC, may conduct their projects using the confidential data at UT Dallas ERC facilities.

As the capacity of the ERC to host concurrent projects is limited by space and computing resources, and as the Advisory Board is only able to consider a limited number of new proposals at each quarterly meeting, the UT Dallas ERC must select a limited number of project proposals to bring forward at each meeting. Additionally, before bringing project proposals before the Advisory Board, the UT Dallas ERC is required by the State to assess and screen projects for research design, importance for education policy in Texas and their need to use individual student data.

A Researcher's First Step

It is recommended that interested researchers who wish to explore using ERC data for a project initiate the process by sending an inquiry by e-mail to Greg Branch, deputy director, briefly outlining the goals of the research, main research questions, and the data of interest. A UT Dallas ERC representative will then contact the researcher to discuss how best to proceed.

If the researcher and the UT Dallas ERC determine that the project would be a potential good fit, guidance will be provided to the researcher regarding the formulation of their proposal. When submitted, this proposal will then be reviewed at the UT Dallas ERC and recommendations for any revisions deemed necessary or helpful made to the researcher. Selected proposals are then brought before the Advisory Board at the next quarterly meeting.

Upon Receiving Approval

Research projects approved by the Advisory Board are generally authorized for a period of two years. If external funding has been obtained for the project, however, the proposal may request authorization for the duration of that funding up to a maximum of five years. After their initial period of authorization, projects may petition the Advisory Board for an extension of up to two years. The total authorized period for a project, however, cannot exceed five years.

Researchers whose proposals are approved by the Advisory Board enter into an access agreement with the UT Dallas ERC, which will provide for the payment of access fees and other such conditions of use. For researchers from outside of the University of Texas at Dallas, this will be an inter-institutional agreement or contract between the University of Texas at Dallas and the researcher's institution or organization. Once this agreement is in place, the researcher may schedule time at the UT Dallas ERC to conduct work on their approved projects.

Conducting Research

The data collection at the UT Dallas Education Research Center includes individual student data that is considered confidential under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This data is held on behalf of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Workforce Commission. The UT Dallas ERC is authorized to host and facilitate the use of this data for State-approved research projects under an agreement with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which is charged with the operation and oversight of the Education Research Center program. As such, there are stringent conditions governing the use of the data collection.

  • All access and use of the ERC data must occur within the secure research center facilities, and be confined to the sequestered computing systems within the UT Dallas ERC.
  • Any results to be removed from the UT Dallas ERC environment must first be submitted for review by the UT Dallas ERC staff. Materials or information on the secure UT Dallas ERC systems can only be made accessible outside of the UT Dallas ERC through this review process.
  • Only results and information that contain no confidential student information, per ERC guidelines, may be removed from the UT Dallas ERC environment.
    • No materials may be released that divulge information about groups of fewer than five students.
    • No materials may be released from which information about groups of fewer than five students could be inferred or computed.
  • Researchers may only access the specific ERC files that were approved for use in their project proposal by the Advisory Board.
  • In addition to the review of results, all finished researched products must be submitted for final review for FERPA compliance by the UT Dallas ERC before release or dissemination. Such materials submitted for review will be handled in the utmost confidence.
  • Researchers producing reports, articles or other research products using ERC data must provide a short policy brief describing their results for dissemination to the sponsoring state agencies.

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Page last updated on December 12, 2014.

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