Data Enclaves

ICPSR operates a virtual data enclave and a physical data enclave (VDE). The VDE allows secure access to restricted data through a virtual private network connection to a portal on the researcher’s computer. Data that are in the physical data enclave can only be accessed on site in Ann Arbor, MI.

Details on accessing restricted-use data, including information on whether the data are accessible via the virtual or physical data enclave, are available on the home page of each study that ICPSR has classified as restricted.

Virtual data enclave

The virtual data enclave (VDE) provides access to restricted-use data via a virtual machine launched from the researcher's own computer but operating on a remote server. The virtual machine is isolated from the user's physical computer, restricting the user from downloading files or parts of files to their physical computer. The virtual machine is also restricted in its external access, preventing users from emailing, copying, or otherwise moving files outside of the secure environment, either accidentally or intentionally. To receive output or other files from the VDE, users must request a disclosure review from ICPSR staff.

Software tools and support available for use within the VDE include:

  • Geospatial Analysis Tools
    • ArcGIS
    • GeoDa
    • SpatialEcology
  • Statistical Analysis Tools
    • DimPack
    • HLM
    • IRTPRO
    • JAGS
    • MPlus
    • R for Windows
    • RStudio
    • SAS
    • SPSS
    • Stata
    • StatTransfer
    • SUDAAN
    • WinBUGS
  • Documentation Support
    • Adobe Acrobat
    • GNU Emacs
    • Textpad
    • Microsoft Office

Software is only provided for the purpose of analyzing ICPSR restricted data. Software is not available for any other use.

Physical data enclave

Approximately 50 studies are only accessible for analysis on-site in the physical data enclave at the Perry Building in Ann Arbor, MI. The data in the physical enclave contain highly sensitive personal information collected from, for example, prison inmates, victims of violence, or serious criminal offenders. An Application for Use of the ICPSR Data Enclave is required for access to the enclave. The application components are described in more detail on the Accessing Restricted Data at ICPSR page.

When using the physical enclave, several guidelines are in effect:

  • Investigators cannot bring laptops or other electronic equipment into the enclave
  • The enclave is equipped with a Windows computer with the Microsoft Office Suite and the SPSS, SAS, and Stata statistical packages. Arrangements must be made in advance for other software
  • The computer is not connected to the Internet, and the removable media ports are disabled
  • An ICPSR staff member is present at all times when a researcher is using the enclave. The staff member inspects and approves all material brought into the enclave
  • All output, notes, and other material must be submitted for disclosure review before the investigator leaves the enclave
  • ICPSR staff will conduct a disclosure review of all files that the investigator wants to use after leaving the enclave
  • Approved analysis output will be sent to the researcher electronically

Principal investigators interested in depositing data for use only in the virtual or physical data enclaves should contact Amy Pienta, ICPSR Director of Business and Collection Development, at