The Researcher Passport:

Improving data access and confidentiality protection

What is a Researcher Passport?

It's like a travel passport! It's a digital identity, or profile, that captures and verifies the things about you that data stewards need to know in order to share their data with you, similar to the way foreign countries need to know certain things about you to allow you into their country.

How will the Passport benefit me?

  • Easier and quicker application process.
    Right now most repositories have to figure out on their own how to vet folks who request access to their data. This is labor intensive for the repository, but also for you, the data user - you may find yourself submitting similar information over and over again to get datasets that you need for your work.
  • Different repositories can accept it.
    The Researcher Passport system at ICPSR aims to recommend and support the evolution of shared standards for what makes a trusted data user so that you can apply for one Passport and then share it with the folks from whom you need data access.
  • Access to more data, more securely.
    Different repositories often have very similar goals but very dissimilar requirements - different degree requirements, affiliation requirements, training, legal agreements, proof of research experience, etc. The research that underlies this project, in fact, demonstrated just that. Repositories around the US and the world use different terminology, different methods, and different criteria to provide data access. Our research suggests that data repositories are actually more similar than they are different and those differences can be handled in more efficient and effective ways if we standardize the rest of it. With broad adoption, the Researcher Passport will mean more access to data and heightened data security.
  • New opportunities for linking data.
    The more we can normalize data sharing methods and criteria, the more opportunities there will be to link data from different sources. If repository A and repository B each know that the other applies the same criteria for understanding a researcher's trustworthiness, sharing tools for access and rules for disseminating research results will be much easier.

How can I get involved?

  • Talk to us!
    We want to hear your ideas, feedback, and questions as we build, test, and share this system. Fill out this short survey or email us at: credentials-icpsr@umich.edu
  • Take a look at our White Paper
    We discuss the underlying research, provide a conceptual blueprint, describe the digital platform ICPSR is building, and make clear recommendations for how researchers and repositories can help move this effort forward.
  • Follow the Researcher Passport project via ICPSR's social media.
    We are really excited about this project and plan to provide updates throughout the tech build and system piloting phases.

Meet our Researcher Passport team:


Maggie Levenstein, Principal Investigator

Johanna Davidson Bleckman, Project Manager

Allison Tyler, Graduate Research Assistant

We are grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for their support of this project.