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This document was added or updated on 27/07/2020.
USING MICRODATA RESPONSIBLY
The ABS reserves the right to seek additional information from applicants regarding their statistical purpose for the use of microdata.
When can microdata be shared
Access to microdata can only be granted by the ABS. Microdata must not be shared with other individuals as this is a breach of the Undertaking signed by your organisation. Any person who needs access to microdata or uncleared DataLab output must apply and be approved by the ABS before accessing the data. This includes members of your research project team who will see, discuss or use microdata or uncleared DataLab output. Sanctions may be brought against organisations and individuals found to be sharing access to microdata with unapproved individuals or organisations.
Where researchers from different organisations are collaborating on a project, the ABS may provide permission to share specific microdata and uncleared DataLab output. See Collaborating on microdata research below.
When can microdata output be shared
Output that can be shared:
Examples of basic microdata aggregate data that do not reveal microdata and are not required to remain in a secure environment include:
When disseminating aggregated output or reports, you must ensure that you correctly attribute ABS microdata as the source. See Microdata user obligations for Licence provisions, copyright and attribution.
Output that cannot be shared:
Microdata collaboration can occur when consultants conduct work on behalf of an organisation, or when multiple organisations are working together on a research product.
Collaborating researchers need to be approved to access microdata:
Contact email@example.com to ensure the correct approval has been granted for all individuals in your project
Collaborating researchers can work on a project without seeking further approval if you will only be viewing or discussion DataLab output that has been cleared by an ABS officer. For example, if a consultant provides a report with conclusions drawn from analysis of the microdata to another organisation, then that organisation is not required to have approved access to the microdata.
DataLab project workspaces:
Using more than one microdata file together
You may merge microdata files where:
You must not match microdata files where identifiers have not been provided for that purpose. Different microdata releases may include information about the same record. For example a person may be selected in one survey and also be included in an administrative microdata file about people. In this case, identifiers will not be provided to facilitate matching that record across the two microdata files. You must not attempt to match that record based on their characteristics on the two files. This includes matching two ABS microdata files or matching ABS microdata with microdata from any other source.
An example of a multi-level microdata file is person data in one file and household data relating to those persons in another file. In this case, each record on the person file will include a person and household identifier. This enables you to group persons into households, and to undertake research about those people as a household group. Merging microdata files is only permitted where identifiers have been provided as part of the release.
ABS releases microdata files from many sources including surveys, censuses and administrative data provided by other organisations. In some cases the ABS may undertake a project to match or link records based on their characteristics. You must not attempt to match or link microdata records yourself. When the ABS links records to create a linked microdata file, it is assessed to ensure that the confidentiality of the records is protected before being released. Where the linked data is provided in multiple files, they may only be used together if record identifiers have been provided for that purpose and you have been approved to do so as part of your project.
Researchers may want to concatenate or pool two microdata files. This is where the records from two microdata files are stacked so that all of the records are in a single microdata file. While it is generally safe to do this, you must seek approval as part of your DataLab project. Different versions of the same file, such as basic microdata and detailed microdata from the same survey and reference period, must never be concatenated or used together.
If you have been approved for more than one DataLab project, you must not use microdata files approved for one project in a different project.
Researchers may also want to add aggregate data characteristics to a microdata file. This may be appropriate, provided it is not undertaken in a way that assists identification of the record. For example, if median salary by sex and age was added to a person microdata file, this would not represent the actual income for each record but may benefit the research.
Aggregate data and microdata
Aggregate data is produced by grouping information into categories and combining values within these categories, for example, a count of the number of people of a particular age (obtained from the question ‘In what year were you born?’). Aggregate data examples include tables, means, medians, ranges and regressions.
Microdata is a dataset of unit records where each record contains information about a person, organisation or other record. This information can include individual responses to questions on surveys or administrative forms, which are characteristics of that record.
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