As set out in the UK Statistics Authority’s Better Statistics, Better Decisions strategy for official statistics, ONS aims to provide high quality statistics, analysis and advice on the UK economy and society to support democratic debate and improve decision making.

However, there are times when it is not possible to openly publish data because of the risk of disclosing information that breaches respondent confidentiality. The Approved Researcher scheme is used by ONS to grant access to unpublished data for statistical research purposes as permitted by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (SRSA).

Between 26 February and 29 March 2015, ONS carried out a public consultation on the criteria and process used to grant Approved Researcher status, and the safeguards used to ensure the confidentiality of all personal data held.

We asked:

For your views on the existing criteria, processes and safeguards used to designate Approved Researchers.

You said:

  • There was support for most proposals, particularly those that will reduce administrative burden on both users and ONS, and increase transparency;

  • Other proposals, notably those that would increase the use of ONS data by the private sector, received a mixed response, with strong views expressed, both in favour and against the proposals; and

  • Continuous access to data are very useful, e.g. for longitudinal analysis

We did:

  • Analysed and listened very carefully to feedback from stakeholders and updated our proposals accordingly;

  • Published an initial response on 3 July 2015, summarising the consultation feedback and next steps;

  • Presented recommendations from the Expert Steering Group for the Approved Researcher scheme review to the UK Statistics Authority Board; and

  • Published an updated consultation response setting out the changes to the Approved Researcher scheme.

We have carried out an evaluation of the updated Approved Researcher scheme and a summary of the findings and an action plan is published in the Related downloads section.

Please also see the ONS Approved Researcher scheme for further information. If you wish to contact us, please email