Data without Boundaries - DwB

The Data without Boundaries – DwB – project came to a formal end on 30 April 2015. The project had a mission to support equal and easy access to the rich resources of official microdata for the European Research Area, within a structured framework where responsibilities and liability would be equally shared. During its four-year lifespan the DwB worked towards preparing a comprehensive European service with better and friendly metadata, a more harmonized transnational accreditation and a secure infrastructure that would allow transnational access to the highly detailed and confidential microdata, both national and European, so that the European Union would be able to continuously produce cutting-edge research and reliable policy evaluations.

The resulting output is presented on this website as well as the tools and services that continue to be available and will be developed beyond the project end. The main event to display and discuss the project work was the Second European Data Access Forum (EDAF), in March 2015 in Luxembourg. Presentation slides and audio files are available from the EDAF event page. For further information on DwB results and output please use the navigation on the left.

Deliverables and Fact Sheets

To gain a comprehensive picture of the DwB results, it is worth navigating to the list of Deliverables, as everything is not included in the introductions to the subsections below.

In addition to the deliverable reports, there are fact sheets available on some of the output. They can be downloaded and printed for dissemination purposes. To download and read the fact sheets, please, go to Promotion and Publications.

Bridging Three Communities

The DwB Governance Council. Mike Priddy of the DANS took the picture.

The Data without Boundaries was a large consortium, with altogether 29 partners belonging to the European Statistical System (10 national statistical institutes), to the CESSDA (11 data archives) and to the research community (7 universities and an enterprise involved in methodological research). On page Work Packages more detailed information is provided on how the work was organised. In the picture above are the representatives of the partner organisations to the Governance Council held in Libourne, France in April 2015.

For any questions about the DwB, please see our contact information.

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Short Introduction to the DwB Results

The DwB project team used various means and forums to reach its objectives. As a result, the project proposes a model for an integrated service centre. Connected with the model it provides several tools and services it has built that are either available now and will continue to be maintained and updated or are the basis for future developments and projects that require long term investment from the members of the stakeholder communities.

The DwB Metadata Services

Currently available are the detailed metadata and setup routines for microdata disseminated by the Eurostat. The metadata are available in the Microdata Information System for Official Statistics (MISSY), managed by the German data service (GESIS). The setup routines are available on the DwB website. The other metadata service Centralising and Integrating Metadata from European Statistics (CIMES), is managed by the French data service Réseau Quetelet with its partners ADISP and the French Secure Data Access Centre (CASD). CIMES is an information system that provides a comprehensive overview of the official microdata disseminated for research purposes by the national statistical institutes across Europe.

The DwB Access Services

The DwB website hosts the Database on National Accreditation & Data Access Conditions, focusing on the data produced by the leading statistical agency in each country. The collection provides basic information on official statistics data, such as conditions, modes of access, timing, costs etc. as well as links to relevant websites, application forms and other online documentation. The database reflects the status before the end of the DwB project. It is now also integrated in CIMES and there are plans to update it

The Legal Frameworks Visualisation Tool was developed to demonstrate the possibilities and limitations to transnational access to confidential official microdata. It elaborates on a number of case scenarios regarding data access provision across different types of data sources. The Visualisation Tool is currently managed in a temporary location.

Short descriptions of synthetic data tools, CTA, ECTA, and cell suppression tools are provided under Access Services as well as instructions on how to obtain the software packages. This section also includes the guides that the DwB has produced regarding information security standard and outputs checking.

In 2012–2014, the DwB project launched eight calls for research proposals for transnational access to sensitive and detailed microdata. Selected projects were supported in accessing data in another EU country than the official place of residence of the researcher. The section Transnational Access contains a list of selected projects, information about the selection procedure, list of publications, and participant interviews. Seven research data centres from four countries offered access to their data. Although, the call is closed and there is no financial support available for data access from the DwB, the research data centres will maintain some cooperation between them to support comparative projects and interested researchers should consult the research data centres on how to gain access to the data.

Activities and Events

The DwB organised several events and courses to build networks and cooperation; raise awareness and knowledge of the existing data and services; and to discuss and propose new solutions and tools to fulfil the DwB mission. The DwB approached its main stakeholder communities – the national statistical institutes, data archives and research community – and was able to engage them and bring them together, in some cases for the first time. In the Activities and Training section of our website, you can get acquainted with the programme and material of the training courses, workshops, and conferences the DwB organised. The DwB work and legacy were displayed and discussed extensively in the Second European Data Access Forum. The presentations are available on the event’s webpage. Several activities and events will continue beyond the project.

A Vision for the Future

The Vision for the Future section presents ideas and service concepts that are not currently available as a ready-to-use service. They should be adopted and implemented or further developed by representatives of the stakeholder communities, such as the European Statistical System or by the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives.

The idea for a European Service Centre for Official Statistics – ESCOS – calls the stakeholder communities to establish a comprehensive web service for microdata from official statistics in Europe; to promote the use of the microdata and to improve data access as well as to support a European Remote Access Network. The Service Centre would essentially take up the legacy of the DwB and go beyond it.

The model for a Secure European Data Access Network – EuRAN – that will allow transnational access to confidential microdata is a background network infrastructure characterised by high security standards, interoperability with existing infrastructures, support for different means of access depending on differing security needs, and a single point of access as service hub for a wide range of tools and services.

The purpose of the DwB Resource Discovery Portal – DwB-RDP – is to provide mechanisms to researchers and applications to search and retrieve metadata for the catalogued datasets. It currently allows search on study level. The portal user interface consists of three separate views: the discovery portal home page, the search results page, and the study details page.

The notion of the circle of trust refers to a situation where different parties, such as research data centres and data archives or universities, can rely on each other in allowing and gaining access to highly detailed microdata. To build a circle of trust, there is a need, for example, to develop shared best practices, agreements and standards as well as to harmonise licencing and accreditation.

Deliverables and Fact Sheets

To gain a comprehensive picture of the DwB effort, it is worth navigating to the list of Deliverables, as everything is not described under the subsections mentioned above. For example, to be able to build comprehensive interoperable data services, standardised metadata are essential. The DwB metadata work and suggested future course for metadata standards used by the national statistical institutes and the data archives is reported in the deliverables D7.2–D7.3 and D8.2. The D8.2 was part of the effort to build a Discovery Portal for European data sources (DwB-RDP).

In addition to the deliverable reports, there are factsheets available on some of the output. They can be downloaded and printed for dissemination purposes.

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» Link to the former introduction to the DwB (December 2011–April 2015)