1504.0 - Methodological News, Mar 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/04/2005   
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has further developed its capacity to make more detailed statistical information available to external researchers, while maintaining the confidentiality of data providers. 2004 has seen the introduction of "specialist" confidentialised unit record files (CURFs), and the provision of on-site datalab facilities at all ABS offices.

Specialist CURFs consist of microdata that are too sensitive to be made available as part of our existing range of CURF files. Specialist CURFs contain data of a business survey, longitudinal or linked nature; or particularly sensitive household survey data items. Specialist CURFs therefore complement the "basic" and "expanded" household survey CURFs that can already be accessed via the CD-ROM dissemination program and / or the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL).

Furthermore, the ABS has formalised and developed its capacity to provide secure on-site datalab facilities. The ABS Data Laboratory (ASDL) will provide researchers with hands-on access to specialist CURF data in a secure and interactive environment. Unlike the RADL, which is restricted to a batch-mode style of programming, the ABSDL will provide infrastructure for clients to complete statistical analyses of confidentialised microdata using SAS, SPSS or STATA software with point-and-click functionality. Future potential also exists for further statistical software packages to be made available in the ABSDL on a demand basis. The ABSDL may also be used to provide interactive access to expanded CURFs which were previously available on the RADL.

Protection of specialist CURF data is maintained through a number of confidentiality processes and procedures. Spontaneous recognition risk is managed through the application of controlled confidentialisation techniques (eg. data swapping or perturbation of a small amount of data values). List-matching risk is minimised by preventing the specialist CURF from contact with non-ABS data. Specialist CURF data is held within the locked-down ABSDL system and while clients may view and print unit-record information and derived output, they may not remove it from the ABS via hard-copy or electronic means. Rather, the ABS provides a confidentiality clearance service, where all output to be retained by the client is passed to the ABSDL clearance officer who checks it for compliance with ABS confidentiality guidelines, and where appropriate, arranges for its release to the client.

The ABS is committed to further improvements to data access for external researchers and is conducting CURF client research meetings in all State and Territory capital cities during March, April and May 2005. Existing and potential clients with comments and feedback on data access issues are invited to email the CURF Management Unit <curf.management@abs.gov.au> or phone (02) 6252 5731 to register their interest in attending these sessions. The details of all sessions are now available on the ABS website - Services to Universities - Access to CURFs - Whats new?

For more information, please contact, Dale Wallace on (02) 6252 7313

Email: d.wallace@abs.gov.au