Access and Dissemination

ICPSR disseminates data to researchers, students, policymakers, and journalists around the world based on its Access Policy Framework. Users at member institutions may download all data directly from ICPSR.

Many datasets are freely available to the public through the thematic collections.

Users download datasets and analyze them on their own computers. Also, many datasets can be analyzed online.

Access to data is sometimes restricted and users are expected to adhere to norms for responsible use.

The policies governing dissemination of data are as follows:

Responsible Use of Data

Users downloading data or analyzing them online are expected to comply with standards of responsible use. Before gaining access to data, users are asked to read a Responsible Use Statement that says the following:

  • The datasets are to be used solely for statistical analysis and reporting aggregated information.
  • The confidentiality of research participants is to be guarded in all ways.
  • Anything that can potentially breach participants' confidentiality is to be reported promptly to ICPSR.
  • The data are not to be redistributed or sold to others without the written agreement of ICPSR.
  • The user will inform ICPSR of the use of the data in books, articles, and other forms of publication.

Redistributing Data

Users who wish to redistribute data or include them in a new data product or service must receive permission from ICPSR. These are the criteria that ICPSR considers when reviewing redistribution proposals:

  • Will the product benefit the research community?
  • Does the proposed product offer functionality not available from ICPSR?
  • Does it benefit the ICPSR membership?
  • Will the proposed license agreement be acceptable to the ICPSR membership?
  • Will the proposed remuneration to ICPSR be satisfactory?

Delayed Dissemination

All data archived at ICPSR must eventually become available to interested parties. Usually this happens as soon as the process of depositing and archiving is completed. However, the dissemination of data can be delayed in some circumstances, as described in the following paragraphs.

  • Protection of Human Subjects. Investigators and ICPSR may delay dissemination when there is a significant risk that research subjects can be identified. This risk may persist even when direct and indirect identifiers have been removed. Often a subset of such datasets can be released with restricted-use and Data Enclave protections.

  • Self-Dissemination. Researchers may choose to disseminate datasets themselves, especially while funding is available to support this activity.

  • Embargoes. Researchers sometimes ask to embargo data until a book or article is published or a report is written and submitted to a funder. Embargoes will typically last no longer than one year from the time ICPSR receives the study. During the embargo, ICPSR will process the data in the usual manner, but not release the data to the public. When the embargo is lifted, data would be ready for immediate dissemination.

  • Handling of Delayed Data. ICPSR will agree to delay dissemination of data for a good reason, but will insist that the data depositor agree to a release date. Then, ICPSR will archive a "preservation-only" copy of the data for general safekeeping and to learn how to work with it while knowledgeable staff are available and accessible.