Background


The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center provides a shared technological and legal infrastructure to support research, analysis, decision making, and community engagement. It was created in 2015 and is managed by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban and Social Research, in partnership with Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. The Data Center would not be possible without the trust of our partners and support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh.

The University Center has long served as a community information intermediary in Allegheny County. Information intermediaries help people find and use information to improve their communities. The Data Center is one in a long line of initiatives of the University Center in this intermediary role. From 2005-2014, the Center operated the Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System, is home to the Pittsburgh Today regional indicators initiative, and recently launched the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles community indicators project.

Over time, the University Center realized that the broader use of data in the region was inhibited by the lack of a legal infrastructure, technologies that did not support the dissemination of raw data, incomplete data documentation, and a lack of capacity for managing information in a fragmented political environment. The Data Center provides this infrastructure while institutionalizing the role of a data intermediary within a regional open data infrastructure. In 2013 and 2014, we wrote about our early open data experiences in a two part series (part one part two).

Our work is inspired and informed by colleagues in national and international communities of practice. We are deeply appreciative of our partners in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a collaboration of the Urban Institute and local partners in over 30 cities to further the development and use of neighborhood-level information systems for community building and local decision-making.

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