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Statistical Standards Program

Restricted Use Data Licenses


Urgent Update

Due to COVID-19, our physical office remains operational on a limited basis while we are phasing back to full time operational status. At the present time, we have staff in the office to process paperwork and distribute data on a bi-weekly schedule. While we continue to review all electronic submissions, please note that new applications, pending amendments requesting additional data, or amendments that require wet signatures may be delayed by one to two weeks. We will be reviewing all requests as quickly as possible in the order received. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

We are continuing to explore an alternative solution that would provide secure remote access to allow Ph.D. candidates needing to complete their dissertations and other students needing to complete coursework to continue their work. Please note, however, that it is likely to be July before the necessary legal and contractual matters required to provide such a service can be worked out. With this in mind, we ask that you send IESData.Security@ed.gov a list of Ph.D. candidates and the data they are using and of other students and the data they need to complete coursework. Please include the PPO’s name and license number.



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 researcher’s office to ensure compliance with the terms of the License and the Security Plan form.

Does my organization need a License? If your work can be done with public use data, then no, you do not need a license. However, if you need the more detailed restricted use data every organization needs to sign a contract (License) prior to having access to restricted-use data. Each License must have a Principal Project Officer (PPO) who is responsible for the day-to-day operations involving the requested data.

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.