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Research Services


We support researchers working with new technologies and advanced methodologies. Services include:

Research Programming Services

Support for original data collection, complex dataset and variable creation, and statistical analysis.

Staff work with investigators and research teams on requirements to address research questions and to ensure appropriate resources are available for analysis of the data. The unit provides management and supervision to professional staff funded by the research projects.

Services provided include support for:

  • Custom software design
  • Data integration with other types of data (spatial data, biological assays, etc.)
  • Data management, including cleaning, coding, editing, and computer assisted personal interview (CAPI) systems
  • Facilitating original questionnaire and interview data activities
  • Genomic data analysis
  • Obtaining and analyzing secondary data
  • Original data collection, including data structure, design and tracking systems
  • Machine learning support
  • Managing biological specimens, repositories and associated laboratories and assay results
  • Training for data collection efforts
  • Reviewing sensitive data and deductive disclosure review
  • Software support for MPlus, SAS, Stata, R, Python

Staff also serve as liaisons to the UNC Information Technology Services (ITS) to evaluate services needed by CPC researchers, and to ensure required computing capabilities are available, either through central resources or, as needed, in-house.

Additional information about research programming is located on the CPC intranet.

Contact:

Brian Frizzelle
Email: brian_frizzelle@unc.edu

Donna Miles
Email: drmiles@email.unc.edu

Spatial Analysis Services

Geospatial support and assistance with all aspects of a project’s life course, including consultation during proposal writing, data acquisition, analysis and interpretation, model development, cartographic design, and participation in manuscript development.

Services provided include:

  • Agent-based model development: Agent-based models (ABMs) that simulate the socio-economic and demographic structure of study communities serve as ideal digital laboratories for replicating and manipulating social environments to better understand decision-making, system-wide feedback mechanisms, and system-level emergent properties that stem from the interaction of individual agents. ABMs can be applied to many different aspects of population research, including population-environment interactions, health care accessibility and use, effects of urban or neighborhood design on physical activity, and economic behavior.

  • Assistance with primary data collection and secondary data acquisition: Spatial Analysis Services supports the use of mobile data collection technologies for the collection of primary spatial data. These technologies include, but aren’t limited to, standalone GPS tracking devices and GPS-enabled tablets and smartphones with geospatial apps. For secondary data analysis, we evaluate data sources and advise CPC researchers on the appropriateness and limitations, and implement the data development efforts.

  • Cartographic design and visualization: Maps allow us to see patterns and understand the geographic nature of data in a way that can never be obtained through a table of numbers. Spatial Analysis Services staff use standard cartographic practices and innovative techniques to design maps that meet the needs of Fellows and trainees at CPC, from large-format maps used in fieldwork, to interim maps that help researchers understand their data during the course of a project, to professionally designed maps for presentations and results.

  • Consultation during proposal development and over the lifespan of a project: We offer assistance during proposal development, including budget estimates for proposed work and suggestions of spatial analytical methods and datasets. We can also consult during the project itself, offering help to Fellows, staff and trainees who need to use spatial methods and techniques.

  • Contextual data linkages: Survey data can be supplemented with information about the environments in which respondents live through contextual spatial data linkages. Respondent locations, obtained through methods such as GPS or address geocoding, can be combined with secondary contextual spatial datasets to extract neighborhood information relevant to the research questions. Examples of such linkages can be Census variables from a respondent’s block group or the number of fast food restaurants within a 15-minute drive of the respondent’s home.

  • Creation of custom tools for data collection and analysis: Spatial Analysis Services staff work with Fellows to find solutions to uncommon problems. These solutions often take the form of new tools that improve the efficiency or accuracy of a process. Tools can be web-based or desktop applications.

  • Development of spatial databases: A well-designed and complete spatial database is critical to the success of any project. The Spatial Analysis Services staff have extensive experience in the development of spatial databases. Standard services include assistance with primary data collection, acquisition of secondary data, and contextual data linkages.

  • Interactive web mapping: Spatial Analysis Services staff can work with Fellows to design web maps for project websites. For complex applications, we will work with Web Services staff to develop a server-side database to house the data that are displayed in the user interface.

  • Spatial analysis and remotely sensed image analysis: We use state-of-the-art GIS and image processing software tools and custom programming to support the research needs of CPC Fellows. We work closely with the research teams to identify appropriate analytical methods, both traditional and innovative, and then implement those methods in the most efficient approach possible. All analytical results are carefully verified using standard quality control checks and the final products are delivered along with comprehensive documentation.

  • Spatial statistics: Spatial Analysis Services staff are available to assist CPC researchers with the inclusion of spatial statistical methods in their research projects. Staff use both standard and specialized statistics software packages to perform exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) on data to better understand issues of normality and spatial autocorrelation, and then use those findings to inform the subsequent use of spatial statistical models. Staff are also available to advise CPC Fellows and trainees in their own use of the spatial statistics.

  • Training on spatial analysis tools and methodologies: An objective of the Spatial Analysis Services unit is to expand the capacity of the Center to integrate spatial data, tools, and perspectives into population research. Training is a central part of this. CPC Fellows and trainees can receive individual, specialized instruction on spatial analysis software tools and methodologies from unit staff. Spatial analysts are available to conduct training sessions in field data collection methods for projects.

Contact:

Brian Frizzelle
Email: brian_frizzelle@unc.edu

Research Communications and Library Services

Support for early stages of the research lifecycle include research literature and proposal support, developing communications and dissemination plans, and creating innovative field-based study materials. Support for later stages include project evaluation visual materials, communications and dissemination of research findings via conferences, publications, websites, and the news media, and ensuring compliance with federal laws to provide public access to CPC research publications.

Services provided include:

  • Bibliographic management support
  • Internal and external communications
  • Graphics and design
  • Library services and scholarly communication
  • Management of CPC’s publication database and project publications
  • NIH Public Access Policy compliance support: Unit staff provide guidance on submitting manuscripts to the NIHMS system, its unique approval process, and obtaining and using the assigned PMCID for proposals, progress reports, and final reports.

Contact:

Lori Delaney
Email: lori_delaney@unc.edu

Information Technology Services

A state-of-the-art, stable, and secure research computing environment to support research work from the conceptual stage through data collection or acquisition, analysis and dissemination, and project administration.

Services provided include:

  • Access to secure data facility: We have a secure data facility (SDF) for the use of CPC affiliates and staff. Inside the SDF is a stand-alone Windows server connected to a secured printer, with software needed by the researcher. Information about accessing the secure data facility is available on the CPC Intranet.

  • Assistance with developing, reviewing, and monitoring data security plans: We maintain resources on how to develop security plans for restricted-use data and are available for consultation on securing networks and computers. Please contact Tim Van Acker for more information.

  • Evaluation, purchase, configuration, installation, and support for desktops, laptops, and mobile electronic devices
  • Management of computing power for data analysis
  • Personalized training for needed software
  • Stable server environment with research and administrative software, storage, print and communications capabilities
  • Software evaluation and recommendations
  • Video and web conferencing support

Contact:

Ed Van Duinen
Email: edv@unc.edu
General Help Email: cpchelp@unc.edu

Web Services

Develop custom tools for project administration and help disseminate research, data and findings to the public.

Services provided include:

  • Creation and management of websites
  • Development of custom applications for internal and external audiences
  • Dissemination of datasets, information and research results

Contact:

Ed Van Duinen
Email: edv@unc.edu

For services or questions not addressed here, contact tim_vanacker@unc.edu.