New process at the ONS aims to speed up output clearance

Category: Office for National Statistics

20 June 2024

The ONS SRS holds a wealth de-identified datasets which accredited researchers can apply to access through a highly secure online portal. As researchers with approved projects progress, they need to remove information from the secure environment in the form of an ‘output’. Outputs may include, for example, tables of results, descriptive text, or full papers. ONS SRS officers thoroughly check all the outputs requested by researchers to ensure that they align with project aims, and to ensure the confidentiality of subjects in the data used. This stage of checking the outputs refers to the “safe output” of the Five Safes, a set of established safeguards to ensure data is kept secure.  

For many years, the ONS SRS has operated a three-level output clearance model. Each level had different requirements and permitted different uses of the outputs (with broader use having stricter requirements). As the number of projects in the SRS has grown, so have the number, range and complexity of outputs requested. To meet this changing demand, the ONS has developed a new model with only a single clearance level: ‘SRS Output Clearance’.

With the new model, the statistical safety and governance checks will still be rigorous so all outputs from the SRS will remain ‘safe’. The single clearance level will facilitate efficient and timely research progress through the SRS. Any output with ‘SRS Output Clearance’ can be kept indefinitely and shared or used freely in line with project permissions (or restrictions) and agreed scope.

This change also helps with preparations for the transition from the SRS to the Integrated Data Service (IDS), by ensuring new processes are well established and stable prior to beginning the migration of the bulk of SRS projects over the coming months. Find out more about the transition to the IDS.

Researchers using the SRS will notice little change in their part of the process, apart from using a new output request form. Further details and the new guidance documents are available on the ONS SRS website.  

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