Restricted-use Data

Restricted-use data contain sensitive information (i.e., information that can cause potential cause harm if revealed) or information that enables the potential identification of respondents through inference. Data may also be restricted-use because of confidentially promises or proprietariness.

Examples of sensitive information are reports of sexual behavior, criminal history, drug use, mental health history, HIV status, information collected from minors, or other materials that warrant extra discretion.

At DSDR, the identities of research subjects are confidential. DSDR and its data providers take the confidentiality of research subjects seriously. DSDR reviews all deposited datasets to assess disclosure risk and implements protocols to prevent the re-identification of research subjects.

Identifying Studies with Restricted-use Data

As shown below, data restrictions are indicated in three areas on the study home page:

  1. Notes section: Includes information on the restriction(s) for the study.
  2. Data & Documentation tab: Restricted-use datasets will not have a download button for data under the Download column. Documentation may still be available for download.
  3. Access Restricted Data button: This button will only display for studies containing restricted-use data. Selecting this tab results in a pop-up box with information on the available access options.
image highlighting where to see if a data is restricted

View studies with restricted-use data in the DSDR archive

Applying for Access to Restricted-Use Data

DSDR uses three methods to provide access to restricted-use data:

  1. Secure dissemination: Data are encrypted and delivered via download to a researcher. The researcher must destroy any copies of the data at the completion of the project.
  2. Electronically via the ICPSR Virtual Data Enclave (VDE): Data remain on the ICPSR file servers and are accessed and analyzed by the researcher virtually. DSDR staff review output for disclosure risk prior to transferring results to the researcher. The VDE facilitates collaboration by allowing members of the project team to connect to the server from their separate, approved locations.
  3. In person via the ICPSR Physical Data Enclave (PDE): A small number of DSDR studies are only accessible on-site at ICPSR’s offices in Ann Arbor, MI. Data in the PDE typically contain highly sensitive, personal information or data from protected populations. To analyze data stored in the PDE, approved researchers must travel to ICPSR. DSDR staff review output for disclosure risk prior to approving files for removal from the PDE.

Information about applying for access to restricted-use data is available on the home page for each study. Application requirements may vary by study as well as the method of access (e.g., secure dissemination). Standard requirements include the following:

  • Your institution must classify you as a Principal Investigator (PI), eligible to lead a research project.
  • You must have a terminal degree (e.g., PhD, MD, JD, DrPH). Other researchers may obtain access to the data if they are supervised by a PI-eligible researcher with a terminal degree.
  • Restricted Data Use Agreement (R-DUA) signed by a legal representative of the receiving institution and the PI.
  • Proof of IRB review.
  • Confidentiality pledges signed by the PI and each research staff (anyone who can access the data).
  • Confidential Data Security Plan(s) affirmed by the PI.
  • Project description explaining why the data are needed for the research.

The Secure Dissemination Application Process

The VDE Application Process

Restricted-use Data FAQs