Statistics and Data Directorate

Microdata access


In 2011, the OECD Committee for Statistics and Statistical Policy (CSSP) formed an Expert Group for International Collaboration on Microdata Access to explore concrete solutions to address the challenges of international access to official microdata. The Mandate of the Group included the following tasks: 

  • Increase coordination and communication between institutes and other expert groups to adopt best practices, promote a common understanding and minimise duplication of work in the area of cross-border access to microdata.
  • Establish procedures for efficient integrated cross-border access to microdata held by statistical institutes for statistical purposes while respecting confidentiality constraints.
  • Advise and make recommendations to Chief Statisticians based on the Group’s work and advice from other international expert groups on technical and non-technical issues.

The Expert Group prepared a Final Report to present the conclusions of its work.


The Report encompasses a discussion on the role of trust in collaboration with microdata; a summary of the use of different methods of international collaboration with microdata; a review of using maturity modelling to improve practices in microdata collaboration; and detailed recommendations which, if adopted, will enable a statistical office to improve its maturity relative to microdata collaboration.


Download the Executive summary (PDF 200KB)



Download the Report (PDF 1.5MB)



Between 2005 and 2007, the OECD conducted exploratory work to investigate the feasibility of making official microdata more accessible to policy makers and analysts. The OECD Conference “Assessing the Feasibility of Micro-Data Access” (Luxembourg, 26-27 October 2006) and subsequently the report “Study on the Feasibility of Micro-Data Access for the OECD” were the two key visible outputs of this initiative. The final report investigated a wide variety of options including Public Use Files, Licensed Files, Remote Access Facilities, and also the scope for NSOs to construct new, disclosive indicators based on the underlying microdata. The conclusions of this initial effort revealed that for many countries it was too early to be able to provide the OECD with some of the access modes envisaged but there was strong encouragement for countries to continue to develop their dissemination capacities.

The work of the Expert Group has built on this earlier effort and has expanded the scope of the investigation to also address the more general issue of facilitating microdata access for international collaborations. Also, past discussions were partly centred on assessing the relative suitability and costs of different microdata access modes to identify best solutions (including the IT infrastructure) taking into account the legislative framework. The Expert Group has instead privileged an approach based on the coexistence of alternative solutions depending on users’ needs and resource availability in National Statistical Offices (NSOs). This model has the advantage of accommodating different countries’ legislative and technical settings in the area of microdata access.


UNECE Seminar on microdata access - In 2013 the Plenary Session of the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) included a “Seminar on the challenges in providing access to micro-data for research purposes”. The seminar was chaired by Slovenia, and the two sessions within the seminar by the United States and New Zealand. Participants discussed how to deal with the many strategic challenges in balancing the growing demands for access to micro-data for research purposes with the requirements of statistical confidentiality.

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OECD Conference: Assessing the feasibility of microdata access, 26 - 27 October 2006

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