Restricted Use Data Licensing

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The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants licenses to securely access restricted use microdata files under certain conditions. Licenses are only needed for microdata not available in public use files.
Restricted use microdata licenses are available from NCSES for the following:

  • Early Career Doctorate Survey (ECDS)
  • National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG)
  • National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG)
  • Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) Integrated File
  • Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR)/SDR Longitudinal (LSDR)
  • Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)/Doctorate Record File (DRF)

The process of applying for access to NCSES data is evolving. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 called for the federal government to establish a standard application process (SAP) through which agencies; the Congressional Budget Office; state, local, and tribal governments; researchers; and other individuals, as appropriate, may apply for access to restricted use microdata. In response, the federal statistical system developed the SAP Portal at

The SAP Portal is a Web-based metadata catalog and application portal that serves as the “front door” to apply for restricted use data from any of the 16 principal federal statistical agencies and units for evidence building purposes. To learn more about the SAP, please visit the SAP overview Web page.

The SAP Portal provides prospective applicants with a comprehensive metadata catalog for over 1,300 restricted use data assets from the federal statistical agencies and accepts applications requesting access to these assets. Users with questions about arrangements for use of restricted use data or questions about existing applications should contact NCSES directly at

How to Request Access to Restricted Use Data from NCSES

Prior to beginning the restricted use application process, we encourage individuals to explore NCSES’s publicly available data products. NCSES makes data available through our online data tools, data tables, data profiles, and public use microdata files. For more information about all these publicly available options, please visit NCSES's Explore Data Web page.

If an individual’s research or policy questions cannot be informed using publicly available data products, NCSES allows individuals employed at a U.S. based institution or organization the opportunity to apply for access, through the SAP Portal, to restricted use data files for select statistical research projects at NCSES’s Secure Data Access Facility and through the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers. Below are the steps associated with requesting access to NCSES restricted use data.

  1. Discover data: Explore the SAP Portal metadata catalog to identify available NCSES microdata to inform research and policy questions.
  2. Submit an application: Submit a request for access to NCSES restricted use data through the SAP Portal. The Application Instruction Manual provides step-by-step instructions to submit an application requesting access to restricted use data. The manual is available through the SAP Portal's “Help” dropdown menu.
  3. Receive an application determination: After an application is submitted through the SAP Portal, NCSES will review the application in adherence with the review criteria outlined in the SAP policy. Applicants will receive an application determination notification through the SAP Portal.
  4. Submit data security requirements: For approved applications, NCSES will contact the applicant to provide instructions on the data security requirements needed to gain access to the restricted use data. The completion and submission of the NCSES data security requirements will take place outside of the SAP Portal.
  5. Obtain help: For questions about the data or the application process, please contact NCSES at  

Researchers are often interested in matching NCSES data to other non-NCSES data sources. Individuals interested in matching data should review the NCSES Policy on Matching Non-NCSES Data to Restricted Use Data Sets (35 KB) to better understand how NCSES considers these requests.

How to Amend an Existing License

  1. If an existing license needs to be amended (i.e., add data users, modify data, or extend license), please e-mail:
  2. Once received, NCSES will respond with the appropriate documentation.

Who to Contact for More Information

David Folkerts
Licensing Coordinator/Reviewer
Data Access, Confidentiality and Quality Assessment Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics