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Statistical Standards Program

Restricted Use Data Licenses

Restricted-Use Data Licensing Announcement

All new Restricted-Use License Applications should use the standard application process (SAP) portal.

Beginning December 8, 2022, NCES and the other principal federal statistical agencies and units began using the Standard Application Process (SAP) Portal for submission of new applications. The SAP Portal is available at

Researchers requesting amendments to a current license should still access the license through NCES’s Restricted-Use Data Licensing system.

NCES transitioned to use of the SAP because the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 calls for the Federal government to establish a standard application process through which agencies, the Congressional Budget Office, State, local, and Tribal governments, researchers, and other individuals, as appropriate, may apply for access to confidential (i.e., restricted-use) microdata. The SAP Portal is a web-based data catalog and common application that serves as a “front door” to apply for confidential data from any of the 16 principal federal statistical agencies and units for evidence building purposes.

To learn more about the SAP, please visit the  Standard Application Process Overview webpage.

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.