outline for a ons micro data access and release strategy
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Outline for a ONS micro-data access and release strategy. Richard Laux, Paul J Jackson NSID. New strategy. Advice is requested : On scope and coverage of the strategy On how and when any strategy should be communicated On what timescale any strategy should be implemented

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new strategy
New strategy

Advice is requested :

  • On scope and coverage of the strategy
  • On how and when any strategy should be communicated
  • On what timescale any strategy should be implemented
  • On the preferred change process
where we are policy
Where we are - Policy

An ONS Micro-data Policy is in preparation :

  • Draft agreed by SPC in July
  • Defines, and makes distinct, micro-data ‘release’ and micro-data ‘access’
  • Provides a matrix relating access method to User, purpose, and disclosiveness of data.
  • From which can be derived the best access solution:
    • Licensed use via an archive
    • Off site - access agreements
    • Off site - remote access
    • On site - laboratory / secondment
where we are regulation
Where we are - Regulation

Micro-data Release Panel.

  • In place to regulate all release and all access to ONS micro-data.
  • Proved concept
  • Offer completeness of audit
  • Checks for Code and Protocol compliance in all cases
  • Has accumulated an ONS-wide knowledge of customer demand, user needs, data availability, and quality of service.
where we are licensed use
Where we are - Licensed use

Current practice :

    • Social survey data are deposited at UKDA as a matter of course.
    • Census SARs deposited at CCSR
  • Suitable for low-risk / low utility micro-data only.
  • Minimal set-up cost
  • Low maintenance
  • The full potential of the UKDA is not realised.
where we are off site
Where we are - Off site

Current practice :

    • Intra-GSS access under SLAs
    • Other researchers and LAs
    • Ad-hoc arrangements (approx 50 per annum) for non-GSS research institutions.
  • Suitable for medium-risk / medium-utility microdata.
  • High maintenance.
  • Confidential data leaves ONS - requires meaningful control, and compromises what we can pledge
  • Not consistent across ONS
where we are remote access
Where we are - remote access

Current practice :

    • Welsh Assembly access to IDBR
    • NOMIS
    • (Future) NeSS and Census commissioned outputs
  • Suitable for analysing high-risk / high-utility microdata.
  • High set-up cost
  • Low maintenance (if crude rules are applied to outputs).
  • Confidential data does not leave direct ONS control
  • not popular with expert research users
  • in silos
where we are laboratory
Where we are - laboratory

Current practice :

    • BDL
    • CRAB
    • LS
  • Suitable for high-risk / high-utility micro-data.
  • No confidential data leaves ONS
  • High set-up and high maintenance (mostly in screening applicants and disclosure checking outputs)
  • Inconvenient for many users unless there are labs distributed around the country
  • In silos, and not consistent in ONS
where we are international
Where we are - International

Current practice :

  • Dennis Trewin paper sets out a framework for micro-data access
  • ONS not at the forefront
  • But does have the expertise either in prototypes or in silos.
strategy is needed user demand
Strategy is needed - User demand

Evidence based policy making requires :

  • Bespoke statistics to meet very specific policy needs,
  • Small area statistics for devolved decision making,
  • Longitudinal statistics to monitor policy delivery,
  • Interdisciplinary statistics to describe inter-agency initiatives,
  • Validation by the academic research community,
  • High quality data, improved by feedback from expert users.
strategy is needed more demand
Strategy is needed - more demand

Vast increase in the number of agencies performing this work :

E.g. - North East Regional Information Partnership consists of around 50 agencies working for North East public service authorities - all of which have stated a need for access to unperturbed, high-utility, multi-source micro-data. And claim to be able to use it.


1. Present micro-data access as a single corporate service.

  • A single route for all users, via the website, directing them to the optimum solution for their stated needs and their status.

2. Provide a spectrum of solutions based on a transparent matrix of User type, purpose, and disclosiveness of data.

  • Enhanced use of the UK Data Archive.
  • Intra-GSS off-site access under agreements
  • A corporate remote-access facility
  • A corporate on-site laboratory
  • A number of franchised laboratories across UK

3. Make micro-data access a horizontal specialism.

  • Regulation is already horizontal (MRP)
  • SDC standards same across the service.
  • A single ‘micro-data access team ’ drawn from existing services across the Office
  • Delivers user screening, advice, training, output checking - on behalf of the Office.
  • Single point of contact and relationship with Users

4. Build remote access lab and on-site data lab into the design for CORD and CORM

  • A window into CORD: no silos of micro-data
  • A common language for analysing data

5. Seek funding support from the wider research community

enhanced ukda
Enhanced UKDA
  • Recommend :
    • Sources to require that all micro-data that can lawfully be deposited at UKDA should be placed there,
    • in a form suitable for management on our behalf and/or on our instruction,
    • its use regulated by MRP or a Sources Policy body.
intra gss
Intra GSS
  • Recommend :
    • Ensure all GSS members use an SLA relating to data supply.
    • Ensure the SLA is annexed by a data access agreement
    • Ensure all pledges allow for our data to flow within the GSS.
remote access
Remote Access
  • Recommend :
    • Support the BDL Expression of Interest as a corporate facility for remote access to high-utility micro-data
    • Build in Tau-Argus
    • Develop standardise and practicable SDC criteria for outputs.
  • Recommend :
    • Make BDL/CRAB a corporate facility within the modernised ONS
    • Sources to place all relevant micro-data within the facility on request
    • Tau-Argus plus SDC standard criteria
    • (ESRC grant?)
  • Many users, especially in the Regions, are users of statistics in general, not particular sources of statistics. A single point of contact will lead them to the best sources.
  • Many users don’t want the responsibility of having micro-data in their possession - remote facilities and laboratories will be welcomed.
  • Better use of UKDA is very efficient for ONS
  • Corporate solutions are better for ONS, and better for users too.
  • Corporate solutions are more likely to get financial support from the User community
  • Corporate solutions can react in a rapid and consistent way to legal and policy changes.
  • On scope and coverage of the strategy
  • On how and when any strategy should be communicated
  • On what timescale any strategy should be implemented
  • On the preferred change process