Statistical Standards Program

Getting Started

What are "restricted-use" data? Federal agencies collect survey data containing individually identifiable information that are confidential and protected by law. This information is not publicly released. The terms "restricted-use data" and "subject data" are used to refer to data of this type.

Why would I want restricted-use data? IES uses the restricted-use data License as a mechanism for making more detailed data available to qualified researchers. IES does this because some research projects require a level of detail that is lost in the process of protecting data files distributed to the public. Restricted-use data have a higher level of detail in the data compared to public-use data files. Public-use data files have been anonymised with the individually identifiable information having been recoded or deleted to protect the confidentiality of the survey respondents.

Why is a License necessary? There is a set of laws that provide for the security and privacy of personal data maintained by the Federal Government (Privacy Act of 1974, as amended and Computer Security Act of 1987). In addition, the specific law (Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002) that authorizes IES to conduct research and evaluations and to collect, analyze, and disseminate education data, requires IES to protect the confidentiality of respondents' individually identifiable information.

What does a License mean? IES loans restricted-use data only to qualified organizations in the United States. Individual researchers must apply through an organization (e.g., a university, a research institution, or company). To qualify, an organization must provide a justification for access to the restricted-use data, submit the required legal documents, agree to keep the data safe from unauthorized disclosures at all times, and to participate fully in unannounced, unscheduled inspections of the researcherís office to ensure compliance with the terms of the License and the Security Plan form.

Does my organization need a License? Every organization needs to sign a contract (License) prior to having access to restricted-use data. The type of organization you work for determines whether the contract is a License document or a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

If you work for a college or university, a state or local governmental agency, a research firm, or an analytic consulting firm, then you will need a Restricted-Use Data License.

If you work for Congress, a Federal agency outside of the U.S. Department of Education, or a component of the U.S. Department of Education outside of IES, then you will need a Memorandum of Understanding.