UW Data Collaborative

UWDC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click any of the links below to expand the answer to the question.UWDC is an acronym for the University of Washington Data Collaborative. It is a state-of the-art computing platform for storage and analysis of large, sensitive data, housed at the UW Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology.

The UWDC provides the infrastructure to harness innovative, but hard-to-access data for the development of novel, high-quality research and evidence-driven policy making.

What comprises "sensitive" data in the UWDC?

“Sensitive” data include elements that could identify specific individuals (e.g., citizens, patients, study subjects) or entities (e.g., businesses).

Release of such data could cause harm to the individuals or entities that the data represent.

When I am using the UWDC Enclave servers, why is there no internet/e-mail/mapped drives, etc.?

By design, no outside network resources are accessible. This protects any confidential or sensitive data. If you need to have files transferred, there is a formal request process.

What does the word "Collaborative" mean for the UWDC?

Many of the most important and intractable societal problems can only be addressed with interdisciplinary research conducted by teams of multiple investigators. The UWDC provides the technology to support this level of inquiry within a high-performance and secure computing environment.

In order for data sets to be housed on the UWDC, they need to show promise for supporting this type of research.

How are sensitive data sets protected in the UWDC?

Data are protected using several technological controls.

  1. Enclave servers
    Enclave servers allow in-bound network connections using Remote Desktop Protocol, but they allow only carefully controlled out-bound connections. This means that once a user logs onto the Enclave server, there is no visible internet, no e-mail, and no arbitrarily mountable remote file systems.The Enclave servers host the sensitive data sets in read-only shares that are available only to authorized users. The servers also are equipped with the latest suite of analytic software (e.g., R, Stata, SAS, ArcGIS).
  2. End-to-end encryption
    Connections to the Enclave servers pass through a VPN session, so that transmissions between the client and Enclave server are encrypted. A user connected through a “open” WiFi connection would still have encrypted communication between their computer and the server.
  3. Dual-factor authentication
    The logon process includes two authentication steps. When the VPN session is initialized, users must provide their UW unique identifier (UWNetID) and password. At that time, a push is sent to their mobile phone requiring a confirmation for logon.

How do I get approval to access to the UWDC if I am a student, staff, or faculty member of UW?

Gaining access to the UWDC is a multi-step process.

  1. Requesting general access to the UWDC requires anĀ initial overall access application.
  2. Once general access is granted, the user must request access to specific data sets by uploading completed data use agreement forms. Obtaining access to specific data sets may also entail completing additional training and/or certifications.

How do I get approval to access to the UWDC if I am NOT a student, staff, or faculty member of UW?

Before being able to access any UWDC resources, non-UW personnel need to:

  1. First obtain a sponsored UWNetID.
  2. Follow general processes for obtaining approval to use the UWDC (see above).
  3. Obtain authorization to use DUO two-factor authentication’

I got approval. Now how do I access the Enclave servers?

If I have data I want to upload to the Enclave, or if I have results data I want to download, how is that done?

If users need external data sets (e.g., GIS files, ancillary tables, scripts) to be loaded on the Enclave, they use a web form to request data upload. The data sets are reviewed by the UWDC Manager, and if they do not contain any forbidden elements, they are transferred to the user’s personal share.

When users complete their analysis, they similarly request a download. The files are reviewed by the UWDC Manager, and if they contain no forbidden elements, they are copied from the Enclave to a share external to the Enclave to which the user has access.

I have a data set I would like hosted on the UWDC. What is the process for that?

We are working out financial models for how users will pay for having their data sets hosted. This FAQ will be updated when the financial model is finalized.

Does the UWDC meet any data security standards, such as NIST 800-171, EU GDPR, or FISMA?

UWDC staff is currently reviewing and documenting its procedures to become compliant with NIST 800-171. After that we will begin the process for addressing EU GDPR and FISMA.

Are there any fees to use the UWDC?

There may be fees for specific uses of the UWDC. These are still being worked out and this FAQ will be updated when the fee structure is finalized.