Data @ Reed

Access to Restricted Data

The Reed College Library provides access to many public-use datasets through various data archives and publishers. However, in some cases, student and faculty researchers may require access to a dataset that one of these providers has cataloged as "restricted." The Data @ Reed team can help researchers navigate the application and access process, as well as work with the researcher to ensure secure storage and analysis procedures.

Restricted data differs from public-use data in that it entails the possibility of compromising the confidentiality of the participants of the study. The features that could compromise this confidentiality are removed to create a version for public use, but these very features are often of great interest to researchers, as they allow researchers to investigate the dataset in innovative ways. The researcher must agree to certain conditions and procedures in order to access these restricted data.

The application process for obtaining restricted data varies by data provider. In general, though, the process usually includes the following elements:

  • Contact the Data @ Reed team by emailing us at We can help you organize and complete your application process.
  • Justify the need: public-use datasets can meet many researchers' needs, and working with restricted data carries additional responsibilities and considerations, both ethical and technical. Carefully consider whether or not you can justify why a public-use dataset won't meet your research needs. You'll need to put this in writing as part of the application process.
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval: By definition, restricted data involves working with confidential data about human subjects. You'll need to get approval from Reed College's IRB as part of your application process. Information about the process can be found on the IRB's webpage. The Data Services Librarian can assist you in the IRB application process.
  • Data security plan: As part of the application process, you will need to explain who will have access to the data, and how you make sure the data is stored and analyzed securely. The Data Services Librarian will work with you to address physical and technical security needs for your data security plan.
  • Contract approval of the restricted data application: As a contractual agreement, a restricted data license application must be approved by the Reed College Librarian. 

Based on the statement from the Data & Information Services Center at the University of Wisconsin