1. Metadata Catalogue

The Secure Research Service (SRS) Metadata Catalogue is a new, interactive way for you to discover what data are available for research in the SRS. You can search by name or theme and collect information about each SRS dataset, including its periodicity, frequency and spatial coverage, as well as a high-level description. For many datasets, you can also see full details of the variables contained in the dataset, with descriptions. This allows you to assess whether the dataset will meet your research needs before becoming an accredited researcher or submitting a project application. With agreement from the data owners, we will extend this functionality to all datasets over the next few months. The new Metadata Catalogue will also support better citation of SRS datasets and more information will be available soon.

The SRS Metadata Catalogue is a new service, launched in cooperation with our partners, ADR UK and Metadataworks. The new Metadata Catalogue is in its beta phase, so we welcome feedback, please contact SRS.Metadata.Management@ons.gov.uk.

Access the SRS Metadata Catalogue.

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2. Matching

Researchers can match together different datasets they have access to in their Secure Research Service (SRS) project using common variables (for example, Local Authority, Occupation codes).

Where data have been provided with an operational ID, we will pseudonymise it (transform it into a mix of numbers and letters) to become an Office for National Statistics (ONS) ID that is meaningless outside the SRS environment. The ONS ID enables the researcher to match tables within the SRS environment. An example of an operational ID that has been pseudonymised is the "entref" variable, which is included in many of the business datasets held in the SRS.

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3. Linking

For research projects accredited under the Digital Economy Act 2017, researchers are unable to link datasets in the Secure Research Service (SRS) based on direct identifiers (such as name, address, date of birth or operational IDs, such as an NHS number) as all data are de-identified before they come into the environment.

We do not offer a service to link datasets using direct identifiers on a project-by-project basis, as it would be an inefficient use of the specialist resources required to do the work. The only exception is for Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) data.

Researchers are welcome to make a request for datasets to be linked by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) if they can demonstrate that there is a wider research benefit beyond their individual project. This process can take many months, as data owner agreements are required to obtain and link their data.

We will assess a number of factors before any proposed linkage work can progress. These factors include:

  • strength of user need
  • support from all data owners
  • feasibility and level of complexity of the linkage
  • quality of the source data
  • resource required within the ONS to carry out the linkage

If a request is agreed, we will create the linked dataset internally (outside of the SRS) and then transfer the de-identified version to the SRS so that all accredited researchers are able to make a project application to use it.

Researchers wanting to make a request for a linked dataset should contact by email at adrcuration@ons.gov.uk to discuss their requirements. If linkage is not achievable because of the feasibility of the linkage and/or timescales required, then researchers may seek alternative datasets that are currently available in the SRS and listed on the data catalogue.

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4. Inter-Departmental Business Register

If you need to identify a specific subset of businesses within datasets held in the Secure Research Service (SRS) and/or match data in the SRS to data you already hold for a subset of businesses, this can be done in two ways.

You can use a Companies House Reference Number (CRN). This matching work can be carried out by the SRS team if you can supply the relevant CRNs. This service is provided with no costs to the researcher.

You can also use business names and addresses. This linkage work needs to be carried out by a separate team within the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There is a charge for this service. Researchers wanting to make a request for a business-linked dataset should contact idbrdas@ons.gov.uk to discuss their requirement. If this service is required, researchers will need to confirm they are happy to proceed with their project on this basis. They must be willing to pay for the matching work based on the cost provided by the ONS before the application is submitted to the Research Accreditation Panel for approval.

If you require one of these services, this should be clearly specified in the linkage section of your project application. For either method, the results will be de-identified before being made available to you in your project.

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5. Contact details

You can contact the Secure Research Service (SRS) Customer Support team for more information.

The team are available Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm. You can contact them by telephone on +44 1329 447871 or by email at srs.customer.support@ons.gov.uk.

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