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