Frequently Asked Questions
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below focus on questions related to searching the SAP Data Catalog and applying for data. These FAQs are intended for individuals who are applying or may apply to access confidential data. To understand the background and impact of the SAP within the federal statistical system and across government, please visit the FAQ on the informational About SAP page.
If you are applying or considering applying for confidential data, please also refer to the User Guide. This includes application guidance and lists agency-specific requirements (such as eligibility requirements).
To report a bug or issue you are experiencing with this site, please email email@example.com.
To provide general feedback or suggest improvements to this site, please complete a Feedback Form.
Searching the SAP Data Catalog
Does the SAP Data Catalog list all of the data available from the federal government?
No. Consistent with the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, the SAP Data Catalog includes information about confidential data assets (also called restricted use assets). Some restricted-use data assets have a public-use version (where confidential information has been removed). If a public-use version is available, this will be noted in the catalog, along with a link to the public file or files.
Data.gov is the official U.S. data catalog for publicly available data from federal agencies, including data from the federal statistical system.
How can I determine whether a public use file, or PUF, is available for the data I wish to use?
A public data asset is a data asset or part of an asset that has been released to the public. Information on whether a PUF is available for each data asset can be found by clicking on the asset’s homepage and then navigating to the Data Access tab under the metadata menu.
How can I find potential data assets for my project?
From the Home page, you can search for data by agency, topic, or keyword. You can also apply several filters to narrow your search results. Filters include sources, authorizers, funders, and others. You can sort the results by relevance, title, and published date.
How can I determine which data asset or assets I need for my project?
You should review the metadata thoroughly to determine if a particular data asset is needed for your project. The metadata for each data asset outline key information such as a description of the data, the years and smallest geographic unit for which data are available, and how the data were collected.
If you still have questions after reviewing the metadata, it is best to contact the data-owning agency or agencies. Contact information for each SAP agency can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
How often is the catalog updated?
New data assets can be added to the metadata catalog and existing records can be updated by the agencies at any time. Check back for updates if the data in which you are interested do not appear. You may also contact federal statistical agencies directly regarding their data assets. Contact information for each SAP agency can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
Where can I find explanations for the terms used in the metadata descriptions, such as “PUF” and “access modality”?
Each of the fields on the asset homepages are accompanied by a (?) symbol. Pressing the (?) symbol will open a box that defines the field.
If you have questions about a dataset and cannot find answers in the metadata, please reach out to the agency. Contact information for each SAP agency can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
Where can the data be accessed?
Federal statistical agencies and units must limit where and how data assets may be accessed, and many require data to be accessed in person. Not all data can be accessed in all locations, so it is important to know where the data can be accessed before starting your application. You can find information on the access modality for each data asset in the Data Access tab on the asset’s homepage. By pressing the access modality location link, you can see a list of the software available in that location. The location or locations listed are the only places where the data asset can be accessed.
What if I have questions about a particular data asset?
For questions about specific programs, datasets, or data files, please contact the data-owning agency noted for the asset. The owning agency or unit is the most knowledgeable about its data sources. Contact information for each SAP agency can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
Whom should I contact if I need additional help to complete my application or if I encounter problems with the website?
There are several ways of obtaining additional assistance:
- For questions about a data asset, including potential linkages and access modalities, or about whether your responses meet agency expectations for each application field, please contact the agency providing the data. Contact information for each SAP agency can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
- To report a bug that occurred on the site (e.g., difficulty uploading files or submitting an application), please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include as much detail as possible about what you had tried to do and what happened next. Screenshots are extremely helpful for developers in identifying and fixing problems.
- You can provide general feedback or suggestions for improvement using the Feedback Form.
Can I request access to multiple data assets?
Yes. You can add a data asset to your Basket and continue browsing the Data Catalog. Once you have identified all the data assets needed for your project and have added them to your Basket, you can press the “Start Application” button to begin your application.
If you intend to use multiple data assets for your project, you must apply for these data assets in one application. That is, you should not submit separate applications for separate data assets if you intend to use them in a single project.
Can I request access to data from multiple agencies?
Yes. However, it’s important to make sure that the data you are requesting can be used within a single project and/or linked. Not all data in the SAP Data Catalog (even within an agency) can be linked or used together within a single project. Additionally, some agencies have restrictions that may prohibit linking data or using the data together.
Some datasets include information about linkage capabilities and linkage variables in the Detailed Methodology tab on the asset’s homepage. Additionally, you should ensure that the data you are requesting can be accessed in the same location. You can check this by referring to the access modality, listed in the Data Access tab on the homepage for each data asset.
If you are still unsure about whether data can be linked or used together within a single project, it is best practice to contact the data-owning agencies for confirmation. Contact information can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
How do I know whether I am eligible to apply for data?
Some agencies have specific eligibility requirements for use of confidential data. The Application-related tab in the asset’s metadata lists some requirements, like U.S. citizenship. You can also view a list of eligibility requirements by agency in the User Guide.
If you have additional questions, you should contact the data-owning agency.
Completing an Application
Do I need to complete the application in one sitting? Or can I save it and come back later?
You can save your work using the “Save and Continue” button at the bottom of the screen. Note that the application can be saved only after you have completed all the required fields in a section of the application. You can access your application by logging into your account at any time.
Can I view the questions before starting an application?
Yes. You can access the questions. Note that some questions only appear when you are applying for data from specific agencies. These agencies have unique legal and/or contractual requirements for the collection of specific information from applicants.
Is it necessary to include information from the SAP Data Catalog in my application?
Yes. Several fields in the application ask for information listed in the metadata for each data asset. In particular, you will need to consult the metadata when completing the following application fields:
- Demonstrated need: Refer to key variables or methodological advantages of the restricted file over a public use file (if one exists).
- Time, Geographic, and Other Units Requested: Refer to the Application-related metadata tab and look for the “Provisioned by” fields.
- Work Location: Refer to the access modality listed in the Data Access metadata tab. This is the only place that data can be accessed. If you are applying for multiple data assets, you should make sure that they can be accessed in the same location.
- Data Linkages: Refer to Linkage Capabilities and Linkage Variables in the Detailed Methodology tab if they are listed.
What should I keep in mind when selecting “Work Location”?
Data assets can be accessed only in the locations listed under access modality. The access modality or modalities for each asset can be found by clicking on the Data Access tab in the metadata menu.
The Work Location you select in the application should exactly match at least one of the access modalities listed in the SAP Data Catalog.
I want to apply for two data assets, but each has different access modalities listed in the SAP Data Catalog. Can I access them in one place?
No. The access modality listed in the SAP Data Catalog is the only place that the corresponding data asset can be accessed.
What should I keep in mind when completing the Data Linkages question?
It’s important to make sure that the data you are requesting can be linked. Not all data in the SAP Data Catalog can be linked, and some agencies have restrictions that may prohibit linking data or using the data together. If you are not sure, it is best to contact the data-owning agencies to make sure that their data can be linked. Contact information can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
Do I need to complete the Agency Benefits question?
You should complete this question if you are applying to data owned by any of the following agencies:
- BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
- BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- IRS-SOI (Internal Revenue Service – Statistics of Income Division)
- NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics)
If you are applying for Census data, you will also need to demonstrate benefits to Census. This is a separate question, as the Census Bureau has specific statutory requirements governing use of confidential data.
Agency Review of Applications
I’ve submitted my application. What happens now?
The agency or agencies who own the data will review your application according to a set of standard criteria outlined in the SAP policy (M-23-04). If your application meets all of the standard review criteria, the agency will approve your application. If your application does not meet some or all of the review criteria, the agency will either request that you revise your application or reject it. If an agency approves, rejects, or requests changes to your application, you will be notified via email.
What criteria do agencies use to review my application? Do all agencies use the same criteria?
I submitted an application, but I now have a question about it. What should I do?
Please follow up with the data-owning agency or unit to which you submitted your application. Contact information can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
How long will it take for the agency to review my application?
If you request data from one agency or unit, your application will most likely receive a final determination within 12 weeks. If you request data from multiple agencies or units, your application will most likely receive a final determination within 24 weeks. In some cases, application review may take longer. Agencies can request review extensions if needed. If you have applied for data that requires approval from an organization or entity outside of the SAP (such as a state or local government), it may take longer than 24 weeks to review your application.
Can I make changes after submitting my application?
No, you cannot make changes after submitting your application. You can view your submitted application at any time by logging into your account, but you will not be able to make changes until the agency or agencies have completed their review and have asked for revisions.
Revising an Application
I received an email that an agency has requested changes to my application. What should I do next?
This means that the agency has asked you to revise and resubmit your application. You should log in to view your application. Once you have logged in, you will be able to see comments from the agency requesting changes to specific parts of your application.
I have questions about an agency’s comments. What should I do?
You should contact the agency and ask for more information. Contact information can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
How long do I have to revise an application?
Applicants have six months to revise their applications. Applications that have not been revised within six months will be considered withdrawn.
If My Application Is Not Approved
Why was my application rejected?
The agency will provide a list of criteria that were not met by your application. If you have additional questions, you can contact the agency. Contact information can be found on the Contact an Agency page.
Can I appeal if my application is not approved?
Yes. You have the right to appeal if your application is rejected. The appeals process is outlined below:
- You may file one appeal for a rejected application.
- Appeals are limited to decisions under the control of statistical agencies or units. For example, if an agency has statutory requirements that limit data access to U.S. citizens, applicants cannot appeal on those grounds.
- You may provide new information to support your appeal, but you cannot revise your application.
- Your appeal will be evaluated by an appeals body within the data-owning agency. The appeals body includes three senior agency officials.
The email notifying you of a rejection includes instructions for filing an appeal.
How long do I have to file an appeal?
An appeal for a rejected application must be filed within 30 days of the rejection.
Can I revise a rejected application?
No. Once your application has been rejected, it cannot be revised.
If my application is rejected, what details about the application will be made public?
The SAP is required by law to provide the public with information surrounding applications to access confidential data. For projects that are not approved, the following information is reported to the public:
- Requested data assets
- Statistical agencies and units involved
- The date the application was received
- Final determination
If My Application Is Approved
What happens after my application is approved?
Application approval is one step in gaining access to confidential data. The next step is an agency’s review of the research team members to determine whether they qualify for placement in a trusted category to access data.
Requirements for placement in a trusted category vary by agency but may include licensing, data security training, and background investigations.
After your application is approved, the data-owning agency or agencies will contact you to initiate their data security protocols.
How long will it take to access the data?
That depends on the agency’s data security requirements, described above, and may vary significantly by agency.
If approved, what details about my application will be made public?
The SAP is required by law to provide the public with information surrounding access to confidential data. If your project is approved, the following information will be reported to the public through the SAP Portal:
- Requested data assets
- Statistical agencies and units involved
- Project title
- Project abstract
- Approval date
- Project duration
- Names of the principal investigator and other persons requesting access