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2nd Workshop on Data Access to Micro-Data (WDA)


13-14 February, 2009


Office for National Statistics, Newport, UK


The aims of the Workshop on Data Access (WDA) are to review access to confidential government data for research purposes, and to build an expert network which could help to identify best practice and disseminate advice about effective management of research facilities. 

In February 2009, the second Workshop on Data Access took place at the Office for National Statistics’ head office in Newport, supported by the IAB and the German Social and Economic Research Council. Participants from the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Slovenia, France, Canada, the US, Japan, China and Australia reviewed developments in technology, the legal and statistical environments, and management issues across countries with a much wider range of experience. Among the highlights of the meeting was the news of developments in the French and Japanese legal systems, greatly increasing the opportunities for microdata research in two major economies.

Two main themes arose from the meeting. The first was the increasing convergence of statistical legislation in respect of research use of data. While there is still a large variation across countries, there are common themes in recent legislation across the globe, including recognition of the value of microdata research to statistical institutes. Many countries have developed, or are on the way to develop, access for researchers to microdata via research data centres or remote data access. Remote data access has expanded considerably over the last few years in different countries. The second theme was the growing importance of metadata, particularly as a source of analysis in its own right. Even something as notionally simple as creating micro-aggregated data comparable across countries, or describing data using international standards and definitions, can be informative about both the data and the way they can be used.

The meeting closed with an agreement that the momentum gained from the first two meetings be maintained, specifically by: 

  • expanding the network to underrepresented regions 
  • continuing with the conference delivery programme 
  • building a ‘portal’ website to support the network, identify current models of operation and circulate best practice ideas

The next meeting will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in May 2010.

Additional information


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