PFSRDC is a secure computer lab through which qualified researchers with approved projects can access data residing on the Census Bureau servers.
To gain access to the data, researchers must submit a project proposal for approval by the Agency that provides the data, e.g. Census Bureau. All proposals must be submitted through the PFSRDC Administrator. Approval is not guaranteed and proposals may need to be resubmitted multiple times. Proposals must satisfy various requirements and it is the mission of the PFSRDC Administrator to work closely with Penn researchers during proposal preparation to maximize the likelihood of success. The most straightforward approval process may take 3-4 months.
After the project is approved, to gain access to the secure lab, researchers must apply for special sworn status (SSS). Obtaining SSS takes 2-3 months, and often longer for non-US citizens. SSS individuals are sworn to protect the data as Census Bureau employees are sworn, and they are subject to the same legal obligations and penalties.
To protect confidentiality, no data or results can leave the secure lab without a clearance through a formal review process.
Additional information can be found in the FSRDC Researcher Handbook and Research Proposal Guidelines. Guidelines for research proposals planning to use health data are separately described at AHRQ and NCHS.