user story

Kilts Center Relies on Globus Sharing for Nielsen Data Distribution

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

The James M. Kilts Center for Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business collaborates with the Nielsen Company to make marketing data available to approved U.S. academic researchers with a mission to extend knowledge, support innovation, and enhance the practice of marketing. Thanks to the partnership, researchers can utilize datasets on purchasing, pricing and advertising to analyze marketing effectiveness and ensure activities are based on actual retail consumption data and buyer insights.

Such research ultimately supports better product development and merchandising decisions – all of which is critical to large and small business success as well as a healthy economy.

Data Distribution Challenges

Kilts Center is the exclusive academic clearinghouse for these datasets, which are beyond massive – in the products category alone, data is maintained for 1.4 million food, health, beauty and other consumer products. Kilts Center needed a way to get this big data out to subscribers, securely and quickly. They also needed the solution to be highly scalable and secure, with a clean, automated workflow that would be simple for researchers to use.

File Sharing with Globus

Kilts Center turned to Globus to provide the secure data distribution platform they needed, as well as the portal for data access and sharing. Now it is easy for Kilts Center to share new Nielsen datasets with their many researchers with just a few clicks: researchers request to join the distribution and receive permissions to access a storage endpoint where the data lives; then they simply log in using their institutional credentials and access the data files.

Kilts Center was also able to customize the system for its users’ needs. For example, one dataset is so large (5.5TB currently but growing .5TB year) that few users need the entire dataset. Therefore, Kilts Center built a custom online application that lets researchers select exactly the categories and years of data they need. Those custom files are then securely shared with the user who requested it and available for download via a Globus endpoint.

The Globus system for Nielsen data distribution at Kilts Center has been in place for over three years. They have shared data with hundreds of users, moving several terabytes of data in and out of the Center on a monthly basis.

Research Impact

Thanks to the Kilts Center system powered by Globus, researchers have access to valuable marketing research data that opens up new avenues for research, enabling Booth faculty and other researchers around the globe to investigate topics that previously couldn’t be studied. This data has been used to explore topics such as FTC regulation of false claims on products, and how advertising impacts the current health insurance industry.

A few notable research studies made possible by this collaboration include Do Pharmacists Buy Bayer? Sophisticated Shoppers and the Brand Premium, which explored consumers’ tendencies to purchase generic as opposed to name brand products; and Income and Wealth Effects on Private-Label Demand: Evidence from the Great Recession, in which researchers looked into brand name consumer purchases during a recent recession.


  • We needed more than just big data transfer. We needed an easy way to share terabytes of data on a regular basis with dozens of researchers."
  • Thanks to Globus sharing, it’s easy for us to get our researchers the data they need."
  • The system is automated so new users get an email when data has been shared with them, and they just go download it – no need for us to worry about setting the right permissions, validating credentials or creating new user accounts."
  • We were able to easily build a custom application that lets users select only portions of one of our largest datasets, rather than having to access and download the entire dataset."
  • Without a system like this, our admins would have to manually transfer data to the right researchers or to some external storage system. Sharing means the researchers can come to us and get what they need. It’s easier for everyone, and it makes collaboration easier."

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