Frequently asked questions

What is microdata.no?

The microdata.no service offers instant, online access without further application to unmanipulated, detailed register data for statistics, research and analyzes.

Norway has many good sources of register data, and Norwegian law allows them to be used for research purposes. However, the application process for obtaining de-identified microdata from registers is long-winded, and adapting datasets for researchers is time-consuming and costly.

microdata.no is an important supplement and a complementary solution for Statistic Norway’s microdata sharing. Through the service users have instant access to data and full flexibility to design their own, customized datasets. The datasets may be processed within the service , or they may be exported to safe remote access services, the latter based on applications and legal screening.

Which registries will be included in microdata.no?

Registries for which Statistics Norway has processing authority (under the provisions of the Statistics Act). This applies e.g. to:

  • Norwegian National Registry
  • National Education Database (NUDB)
  • Register for Personal Tax Payers
  • Labour market data
  • FD-Trygd (event history database on welfare grants

When was microdata.no launched?

The first publicly available version of microdata.no was launched in March 2018.

Is it solely descriptive analyses that is supported by microdata.no?

No. The analytical platform also supports linear and logistic regression (logit, probit, mlogit), analysis of variance, panel regression, etc.

There are no theoretical limitations in the technological solution as to which analyses can be supported (see separate section below on which statistical libraries are used), but all functionality that is introduced is first subjected to testing, evaluation and, where relevant, measures to protect confidentiality.

More options for analysis are to be added.

The analytical platform also includes a data processing function, with support for population delimitations, linking, aggregation/disaggregation and the development of separate variables.

Does microdata.no contain anonymous data?

No. microdata.no contains complete, unmodified data that prevents the direct identification of an individual. Privacy is protected through an ‘anonymisation interface’ that enables researchers to process and analyse the data without being able to view or gain knowledge of the personal data being analyzed.

Is microdata.no mainly aimed at master’s degree students?

No. The service is part of the national infrastructure for research using register data, and the aim is to simplify and improve access to such data for all groups of researchers who qualify for access.

Master’s degree students were often cited as an example in discussions about the RAIRD project because they are precluded from using register data in research (beyond a 20% sample from FD-Trygd) due to the costs and time involved.

microdata.no endeavours to be part of an infrastructure that improves access for all groups of researchers.

How can I apply for access to microdata.no?

Information about this is available here: How to get access.

See also the questions below.

Who can enter into an agreement on behalf of an institution?

Where no institutional agreement currently exists, anyone affiliated with an institution can initiate the agreement. An authorised signatory at the institution must sign a digital agreement before it can be approved.

Can anyone sign on behalf of the institution?

No. The person signing the agreement must be an authorised signatory at the institution.

How do we add more administrators?

The person who initiated the agreement will be assigned a role in the system, which we have called ‘procurator’. The procurator is responsible for adding and removing administrators by initiating an amendment to the agreement. If the institution needs to replace the procurator, it must contact us at microdata@ssb.no.

How does the signing process work?

After the agreement has been forwarded for signing, the person signing the agreement will receive an email from the Norwegian postal service (Posten) informing them that a document is ready to be signed. Posten uses the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment’s (DIFI) Contact and Reservation Register, which contains the digital contact details of the population. More information about this (in Norwegian) can be found here. Notification to sign the document may be sent to a private email address as opposed to a work-related email address.

Why can’t users view the data directly in microdata.no?

The simplified access in microdata.no (which makes it less time-consuming and reduces costs) is based on a model in which microdata is neither downloaded nor available for direct visual inspection. Instead, the researcher must use documentation (metadata), as well as the processing, analysis and visualisation techniques that are available in order to understand the data.

If it is nevertheless necessary to view data, or to link the researcher’s own data to register data, the researcher can apply to obtain data in the normal way in accordance with applicable regulations. In such situations, researchers can use microdata.no to simplify the application process. They can do this by examining data and adapting their own datasets, then applying to obtain specific microdata in line with current guidelines. This will simplify Statistics Norway’s work on adapting datasets considerably, whilst also reducing the cost to the researcher.

This is not currently possible, but is under way as a part of the microdata.no 2-project, ending in 2023.

Can users use typical statistical packages in microdata.no?

No. Traditional statistical packages and tools such as Stata, SAS, SPSS, R, Python, etc., are not compatible with the legal model that microdata.no is based on. Running a statistical package directly on a dataset, is by definition to process personal data, which prerequisites a project based application and legal screening. The very idea behind microdata.no is to give microdata access without applications.

Therefore, microdata.no offers an alternative interface built on Python with built-in measures to ensure confidentiality throughout the process. When working in this interface, you do not process personal data legally speaking.

This interface protects privacy whilst also supporting well-known analysis techniques and working methods. microdata.no is distinct from other statistical packages in that substantially more metadata (information, data documentation) is fully integrated into the tool.

Which statistical packages/libraries are used in the microdata.no platform?

The algorithms used are retrieved from open and tested software libraries and modules.

The following modules from the Python programming system are currently used:

Will microdata.no eventually support new statistical methods?

Yes. The service will be developed on an ongoing basis and more analysis methods will be introduced over time. Before an analysis technique can be included, its ability to protect confidentiality will we assessed, and analysis output checks may be carried out.

Users’ needs and wishes with regard to functionality can be forwarded to support@microdata.no

Can researchers use/install plug-ins in microdata.no?

In order to protect confidentiality, we need to review all types of analyses and functions before they are incorporated into the system. However, researchers may ask for new algorithms/methods to be added, and a facility will be established to deal with such requests.

Users’ needs and wishes with regard to functionality can be forwarded to support@microdata.no

Will sensitive data be disclosed when using such a system? What about privacy protection?

Through the RAIRD project, microdata.no has been developed with a holistic approach to privacy and confidentiality, and privacy protection is embedded in the technology along several axes:

  • The data cannot be inspected or downloaded
  • Analyses, graphics and other output from the system are anonymous
  • The system can only be used by researchers and students from approved research institutions
  • Use is regulated through agreements between Statistics Norway and the institutions
  • Strong authentication is used to log in (the ID port)
  • All usage in the system is logged for a period of five years

microdata.no facilitates the use of register data for research purposes, but the data itself remains protected from direct access since the user is not given identifiable or sensitive information.

How can I analyse data without seeing it?

Visual inspection of data is traditionally a commonly used technique for understanding data, and for verifying and controlling the stages in a data processing process. In microdata.no, it is not possible for users to see the data matrixes. Metadata solutions, descriptive techniques and other tools have therefore been developed which will help users to understand the data and control the data processing processes without direct visual access to data values.

Can anyone register as a user?

No. Only researchers and students at approved research institutions and employees in ministries and directorates are given access.

Information about this is available here: How to get access.

How do I cite microdata.no when I publish my results?

Read more here.