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Make research with data from official statistics agencies and social security agencies more user-friendly!

Press release, April 29, 2020

Remote Access to data from official statistics agencies and social security agencies, directly from a researcher’s workplace, would make the research process more flexible and increase the use of these data in a scientific context. Existing remote access procedures in other European countries, and at some German research institutions, could serve as a role model for this. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) recommends developing and testing remote access scenarios for the microdata held by official statistics agencies and social security providers. It also calls for support and commitment from research-funding institutions, and for facilitating adjustments in the current legal situation.

Formally anonymised microdata from federal and Länder official statistics agencies, and the social security providers are an important resource for empirical social and economic research. These data can currently only be accessed using an on-site guest researcher workstation at the respective data producer’s research data centre (RDC), or via controlled data processing (which generally lacks on-screen viewing and browsing of data and results). Working with the data from their own workplace, researchers are currently not offered the same detailed information and analytic potential provided by an on-site guest researcher workstation. Introducing a more researcher-friendly remote access option, for example, a remote desktop solution, would be an important step forward for researchers in Germany.

Several European official statistics agencies and a few German research institutions can serve as role models for this. Germany, too, should establish such access paths to the data held by official statistics agencies and social security providers, and should start pilot projects to this end. This should be jointly pursued by federal and Länder official statistics agencies, social security providers, researchers, and data protection stakeholders. While remote access to the data held by social security providers primarily requires operationalisation in line with data protection regulations and common research practices, remote desktop solutions for official statistics data will necessitate a change in § 16(6) of the Federal Statistical Act.

If the implementation of this access path is successful (and able to guarantee legal certainty), this will not only bolster the appeal of Germany as a research location, but also the utilisation of these high-quality data that offer a unique research potential.

An English summary of the German Data Forum’s (RatSWD) report on remote access to data from official statistics agencies and social security providers can be downloaded here: https://doi.org/10.17620/02671.48


Established in 2004, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) is an independent council. It advises the German federal government and the federal states (Länder) in matters concerning the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural, and economic sciences. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has 16 members. Membership consists of eight elected representatives of the social, behavioural, and economic sciences and eight appointed representatives of Germany’s most important data producers. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) offers a forum for dialogue between researchers and data producers, who jointly issue recommendations and position papers. The council furthers the development of a research infrastructure that provides researchers with flexible and secure access to a broad range of data. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has accredited 34 research data centres (as of April 2020) and fosters their interaction and collaboration.