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This guide provides information about ICPSR, the Inter-University Consortium of Political and Social Research.

What is Restricted-Use Data?

Restricted-use data are distributed in cases when removing potentially identifying information would significantly impair the analytic potential of the data, or in cases where data contain highly sensitive personal information and cannot be shared as a public-use file. In these circumstances, ICPSR provides access to a restricted-use version that retains the confidential data but requires controlled conditions for accessing them.

Identifying Studies with Restricted-Use Data

Data restrictions are shown in three different areas on a study's home page:

  1. Notes section:  A note highlighted in red indicates that one or more files in the data collection have special restrictions.

Notes section with red highlighting indicating that one or more files in the data collection have special restriction.


2. Data & Documentation tab:  Restricted-use datasets will not have a Preview button for data files, and the size will be 0 bytes. You may still be able to download the documentation.

Data & Documentation tab showing no Preview button for data files and a size of 0 bytes for restricted-use file


3. Access Restricted Data tab:  This button will only display when a study contains restricted-use data. Clicking on this tab results in a pop-up box. with information regarding the available access options.

Access Restricted Data tab

Accessing Restricted-Use Data

Access to restricted-use data is only granted following an application process during which researchers agree to follow strict legal and electronic requirements for maintaining data confidentiality. ICSPR uses three methods to provide access to restricted-use data.

  1. Secure Download:  Data are encrypted and delivered via download to a researcher. The researcher must destroy any copies of the data when the project is completed.
  2. Electronically via the ICPSR Virtual Data Enclave (VDE): This enclave rprovides 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. More information about the VDE software and supporting documentation may be found on the VDE Technical Guide Page.
  3. In person at the ICPSR Physical Data Enclave (PDE) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. About 50 studies are only accessibly for analysis on-site at the physical data enclave in the Perry Building on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The data in the physical enclave contain highly sensitive personal information. 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