Improved access to ABS data for researchers and analysts, Nov 2003

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November 6, 2003
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Improved access to ABS data for researchers and analysts

Approved researchers throughout Australia and overseas now have greatly enhanced access to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data as a result of a new web based facility.

The facility, known as the ABS Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL), was formally launched yesterday in Canberra by the Chair of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council, Professor Sandra Harding.

Professor Harding said RADL would enable approved researchers and policy analysts to access unidentifiable unit record data from ABS surveys. The development was in response to the high level of demand for such data from the research community.

She said RADL was a big step forward for researchers and policy analysts and would greatly assist in their research and in developing policy options in a range of fields, including the critical areas of health and education.

Professor Harding emphasised that the information released was made confidential by the ABS prior to research access and does not enable the identification of individual persons.

She also noted that keeping the data within the ABS and providing access on line via secure web arrangements further ensured the protection of confidentiality, consistent with the Bureau's absolute commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of information provided by respondents.

Future RADL development would concentrate on improving functionality and the range of data that could be accessed.


What is the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL)?

The RADL is a new online data query service that provides access via the ABS web site to Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs). CURFs are datasets compiled from ABS surveys which contain the most detailed statistical information available from the ABS. CURF datasets have been confidentialised by removing name and address information, controlling the amount of detail and changing a small number of values to ensure that survey respondents cannot be identified.

Who uses the RADL?

Using RADL, researchers and policy analysts in universities, government departments and the private sector can run secure online queries from their desktops on CURFs they are approved to access. Whilst the CURF remains within the confines of the ABS computing environment, users can submit tailored queries to produce aggregated output according to their research needs. All user activity is monitored and audited by the ABS to ensure that confidentiality requirements are met.

What are the advantages of the RADL?

The RADL currently provides access to a range of basic CURFs that have previously been released on CD-ROM only, as well as new expanded datasets that contain more statistical information than that released on CD-ROM. Users can now access expanded datasets from the 2001 National Health Survey, the 2001 Census of Population and Housing, and the 1997 Time Use Survey. It is expected that the ABS will continue to release expanded datasets via the RADL for most surveys.

As all user activity is monitored, the RADL can also be used to release data that cannot be released on CD-ROM because of confidentiality requirements. In the future, the RADL will also be used to provide access to overseas researchers who previously have not be able to access ABS CURF data.

For more information on the RADL and CURFs, visit the Access to ABS CURFs page on this web site.