In 1960, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) initiated Project TALENT by collecting extensive data, including demographic information, cognitive measures, dispositional traits, and interests, from 440,000 high school students, their teachers, and their guidance counselors. In addition, follow-up surveys 1, 5, and 11 years after high school graduation added information about experiences such as postsecondary education, labor force participation, family formation, and military service. With its large, nationally representative sample of a cohort now in their sixties, longitudinal design, and extensive information on early life experiences, Project TALENT is uniquely suited to be the basis for a major longitudinal study of aging that can address research questions such as what characteristics predict health outcomes such as Alzheimer's disease and health disparities. AIR is currently designing this study, with plans for a 50-year follow-up in 2014. Designing the study requires increased analysis of the existing data by an expanded group of researchers. In its current format, with 843,000 records and 10,000 variables essentially unchanged since the 1970's, the data are difficult and time-consuming to access, and thus their use is often limited. We propose to modernize the data and documentation, bringing them up to the current standards of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA). Doing so will restore the complete data set and allow for data to be easily accessed and input into any analysis format;enable documentation to be searchable at the variable level across data collections and data years;and fully integrate the data into the NACDA collection. To accomplish this task, staff from AIR and NACDA will collaborate, pairing AIR's in-depth knowledge of Project TALENT with NACDA's state-of-the-art archival expertise. Our plans include integration of Project TALENT into the ICPSR's automated HERMES system, which will allow for regular data updates to be efficiently implemented and for the standard content and format for documentation. Additionally, we will restructure the Project TALENT data files from a series of multiple files into a unified collection supported by an interface that allows users to make informed decisions about data extraction. Project TALENT data continue to be highly relevant today as a research source and analyses of existing data will provide critical information for planning the new follow-up;enhancing the data and documentation will greatly increase their availability to researchers, and will lay the groundwork for planned future releases of Project TALENT, including the addition of linked administrative data. The sheer breadth of Project TALENT insures that it will continue to offer new opportunities for original research on aging, most notably the opportunity to investigate questions about the relationship among physical health, cognitive functioning, socioeconomic, and demographic factors at different stages of life.

Public Health Relevance

In 1960, the American Institutes of Research (AIR) collected extensive data on about 440,000 high school students in Project TALENT and conducted follow-up surveys 1, 5, and 11 years after graduation;with these participants now in their 60s, Project TALENT is uniquely suited to be the basis for a new longitudinal study of aging, and AIR is currently planning a 50-year follow-up study. AIR and the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA) propose to combine their expertise to modernize and archive Project TALENT data files and documentation to meet the demand for increased and easier access by researchers. These newly archived data will facilitate research not previously possible, and will play a key role in conducting necessary analyses to design the study that will transform Project TALENT into an invaluable resource for research on how cognitive, socioeconomic, and demographic factors interact with factors that moderate physical health outcomes, cognitive functioning such as Alzheimer's disease, and health disparities across the life course.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies Study Section (SSPS)
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King, Jonathan W
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American Institutes for Research
United States
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Prescott, Carol A; Achorn, Deanna Lyter; Kaiser, Ashley et al. (2013) The Project TALENT Twin and Sibling Study. Twin Res Hum Genet 16:437-48