The Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched the VML in January 2004.
It currently has one main government sponsor: the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), which has carried out a number of programme evaluations using a combination of ONS and BERR data.
Other government departments (OGDs) using the laboratory include:
Department for Education and Skills
Defence Analytical Services Agency
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
HM Revenue & Customs
Welsh Assembly Government
Since its launch, the VML has experienced considerable user growth. New strategies are currently under review. Collaborations with the Economic and Social Research Council and OGDs have provided secure funding, improved IT infrastructures and the possibility of providing access to researchers outside ONS offices.
ONS has been asked by Eurostat to facilitate the development of international best practice guidelines concerning access to confidential microdata. It is also advising the Economic and Social Research Council on the establishment of its own academic version of the VML.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has described the VML and the development of research at ONS as:
'one of the most innovative research efforts in the public sector across the 30 OECD Member countries.'
On 12 May 2008 an article explaining VML confidentiality was published and can be viewed from the related links section.