VLDS (Virginia Longitudinal Data System) is a pioneering collaboration for Virginia’s future, giving the Commonwealth an unprecedented and cost-effective mechanism for extracting, shaping and analyzing partner agency data in an environment that ensures the highest levels of privacy.
Funded by the 2009 Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program of the United States Department of Education, VLDS is comprised of several component technologies that support secure, authorized research addressing today's top policy and state program questions. VLDS is the result of a shared effort by several Virginia government agencies. Under the IT Initiatives category, VLDS won the 2013 Governor’s Technology Award in Cross-boundary Collaboration for the first-in-the-nation collaboration among four founding state agencies.
What is VLDS?
The VLDS Privacy Promise
“We, the members of VLDS, promise to protect the privacy and confidentiality of data entrusted to us. VLDS is designed to meet or exceed all state and federal privacy laws and requirements.”
A "Virginia Grown" Federated Model
VLDS is built on a "federated" system to merge data across the participating agencies in a complex double-deidentifying hashing process that leaves private data (AKA exposure data) behind the existing firewalls of the participating agencies. This technology was developed, in partnership with VLDS participating agencies, almost entirely with in-state resources including Virginia Tech, Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and Center for Innovative Technology (CIT).
Book of Data Governance
The Book of Data Governance is a reference guide to help VLDS stakeholders become familiar with the VLDS Data Governance model and to inform them of associated roles, responsibilities, authority, and processes. This document outlines the structure of the VLDS Data Governance Program, including critical roles and responsibilities including information for each of the major roles: Data Governance Council members, and the four Subcommittee members (Technical, Legislative, Communications, and Research).
How VLDS is Built to Keep Our Promise
VLDS was designed to balance privacy against the ability to discover insights about Virginia’s education, workforce, higher education, and health policies and programs. These insights can lead to increased agency performance, improved government policy, and improved citizen outcomes.
To ensure privacy:
VLDS does NOT collect data from citizens. VLDS was designed by the participating agencies as a system that facilitates the merging of administrative data in a highly controlled environment. VLDS uses technology that strips “identifiable data” (i.e. any information that identifies an individual) not once but twice before data is released to researchers.
VLDS is a “federated” model for longitudinal data. Rather than build a “data warehouse” to collect and store all of the citizen data collected by VLDS partners, which would have required the duplication of private data (and redundant infrastructure to support and protect that data), Virginia built a system that leaves agency data where it has always been: secure within the participating agencies’ data enclave and behind each agency’s fire walls.
One cannot simply walk up (login) to VLDS to initiate a data merge. Data requests can only be made by vetted researchers who have completed an application process and whose research questions have been reviewed and validated by VLDS participating agencies. Then, all researchers within the system are assigned a committee of agency “sponsors” who guide and oversee the process — all in the name of accuracy AND privacy. Each step along the way, from access request to publication of results, must be approved by the researcher’s sponsoring agency.
The VLDS partnership agreement mandates regular meetings, testing and assessments of VLDS to ensure the continued security of the data within the system.