Data Products » Restricted Data » Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q: What requirements do I need to meet in order to receive HRS Restricted Data?
    A: It depends on what restricted data products you need for your research and how you want to access them. Most but not all HRS restricted data products (see cross-reference list) are available through the MiCDA Data Enclave Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Exceptions are data products derived from Social Security Administration earnings and benefits records and from Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) research data. In order to obtain access to either of these products you must qualify for a traditional licensing agreement. The two crucial requirements for this type of access are:
    • You must be affiliated with an institution that has obtained an Assurance of Compliance from the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
    • You must be a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on a project funded by a current United States Government research grant or contract. If you are a Co-Principal Investigator, the Principal Investigator must sign the Restricted Data Agreement. Note: Only persons with permanent, faculty-level appointments may receive HRS Restricted Datasets.
  2. Q: I am a researcher who can't meet the traditional licensing requirements summarized in FAQ #1. Is there any way to get HRS Restricted Data for my use?
    A: There are two possibilities:
    • See if you can work with a researcher at your institution who does meet the requirements noted above.
    • Make arrangements to visit the physical data facility of the MiCDA Data Enclave
  3. Q: I am a tenured researcher with federal funding who works for a research organization that is not part of an educational institution. Is there any way I could qualify for access to HRS Restricted Data?
    A: In many cases, yes. Contact HRS for more information.
  4. Q: I am a researcher with who works for a United States Government Agency. Is there any way that I (or my agency) can qualify for access to HRS Restricted Data?
    A: Yes, but a special restricted data agreement may need to be negotiated between your agency and HRS. Contact HRS for more information.
  5. Q: I am a faculty member or student at an educational institution located outside the United States who wants to use HRS Restricted Data. How can I gain access to the restricted files listed on this site?
    A: In all likelihood, answer to this question is a negative, since you must meet the basic requirements summarized in question 1, above; i.e., United States Government funding at an NIH-certified educational or research institution. For foreign researchers who are able to visit Ann Arbor, the MiCDA Data Enclave can be used to access HRS restricted data. Note: this restriction also applies to researchers at state government agencies.
  6. Q: I am applying for restricted data as a traditional licensing agreement user. What computing environments and operating systems do you support?
    A: We distribute our data in formats that are compatible with most computing environments and operating systems.
    • Environments: We recommend a standalone workstation, although networked or client-server configurations are possible. We do not recommend such solutions due to the delay in approval necessitated by the extended review process that these configurations require. If you intend to use this configuration, be sure to read this memorandum on client security.
    • Operating Systems: Windows 7 (Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise), Mac OS-X 10.4.x and above, all flavors of Unix. Contact HRS if your operating system is not on this list. Note: Windows XP is no longer supported.
    • Workstation Configuration: We recommend the use of secured desktop systems with wireless access removed or permanently disabled. The use of laptop or tablet computers is strongly discouraged and will be approved only in extraordinary circumstances.
  7. Q: Can researchers at separate institutions gain access to restricted data under the same agreement.
    A: It depends on the specific situation; contact HRS before you submit your proposal. It may well be that the MiCDA Enclave VDI will provide a sloution to your problem
  8. Q: I would like to apply for HRS geographic data files and merge them with SSA administrative data.The HRS File Merge Cross-Reference Table says that this is not allowed. What are my options?
    A: On an exception basis, with SSA written approval, HRS may allow matching of detailed geographic information with HRS-SSA data. The venue for all HRS-SSA matching is the MiCDA Data Enclave in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  9. Q: I am looking for data elements that are not included in the HRS public files. Is there a way to obtain this information as restricted data?
    A: Possibly, depending on the type of data sought and the resources entailed in making the data set available. Also there are certain data elements (names, telephone numbers, street addresses, etc.) that will never be released. Once again, contact HRS before you submit your proposal.
  10. Q: How will the restricted data files be delivered?
    A: MiCDA Enclave VDI users automatically receive access to restricted data products. For traditional license agreement users, restricted data products are encrypted using the AES-256 format and are delivered on CD/DVD via courier. Windows users should be aware that the built-in Windows decompression utility will not process AES-256 bit encrypted ZIP files; it halts with "An unexpected error is keeping you from copying the file" error. As an alternative, Windows users should download and install a third-party compression/decompression such as WinZIP, or 7-Zip. Please use the Restricted Data Order Form when requesting HRS restricted data products.
  11. Q: I want to work with HRS Restricted Data as an assistant to a traditional license researcher. I don't have my own office or computer, but I do have access to a public computing facility. Can I qualify for access to restricted data under these conditions?
    A: No, you must have a private office and access to a computer that will not be shared with anyone who is not a signatory to the restricted data agreement. If you do share an office, all occupants must sign the Supplemental Agreement with Research Staff for Use of HRS Restricted Data
  12. Q: I received password(s) to unlock the self-decrypting (or self-decompressing) archive file(s) on the CDROM that I received as part of my restricted data agreement. When I attempt to decrypt these files I receive an error. What's happening?
    A: You should begin the decryption/decompressing process by copying the contents of the CDROM to a secure work folder. Once that process is complete, the self-decrypting archive files should behave normally.
  13. Q: Can you give me any further advice on dealing with HRS Restricted Data?
    A: Yes, the following documents may be of use.

Last change: October 5, 2015