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Remote Access to Research Data

4 Application process and agreement practices

4.1 Microdata user licence

A user licence is required to use the microdata of Statistics Finland. Statistics Finland is allowed to release the data it has collected for statistical purposes to be used in scientific research and statistical surveys. These data may not be used for administrative, surveillance or other such purposes.

If you wish to apply for a user licence, specify your purpose of use and the data you are requesting from Statistics Finland, as well as any other data you will be using. Your application must include your research plan and pledges of secrecy, as well as user licences for other data if applicable.

User licence applications may be submitted by an authority, institute or accountable research leader. Individual researchers may also apply for a user licence. The user licence is always granted to a certain person or persons, even if the applicant is an authority or institute. If the person or persons change or transfer to another organisation where they wish to continue the research, they must reapply for a licence.

The user licence application must name every person who will process the data. The licensed user is responsible for informing the other people who process the data about the terms of the licence and monitoring their compliance. 

Figure. Microdata licence application process

The microdata licence application process includes the following stages: you examine the data sets, you apply for a user licence, we make the user licence decision, we draw up the agreement, we compile the data and we deliver the data.

The next section describes the microdata licence application process.

4.2 User licence application process

The microdata licence application process starts when you deliver a user licence application, including the necessary appendices, in Statistics Finland's licensing service. The user licence and research data are subject to a charge. 

Your user licence application must include:

  • Your research plan, which states how and for what purpose the Statistics Finland data will be used.
  • Email addresses and mobile phone numbers for every remote user in the project.
  • Other official permissions if data from other authorities are imported to the remote access system.
  • Pledges of secrecy for every person who will process the data, if not previously submitted.

If the data are used as released data (the data are delivered with direct identifiers) or if register data are combined with a survey, the application must include your privacy policy statement. 

You may contact the Research Services or the microsimulation team (for the SISU model) as required. The Research Services can help you with what data are available, how they can be used, service pricing, and schedules.

After Statistics Finland receives your user licence application, the Research Services prepares the user licence decision. At this stage, we will analyse if the data requested in the application can be produced and released for research. If necessary, a statement will be requested from Statistics Finland’s statistical ethics committee regarding the user application licence, which the director responsible for the data uses to approve or reject the application. The user licence decision is delivered to the researcher by email. If the application is rejected, the researcher may amend the application or file an appeal.

Before the work can be carried out, the research service remote access agreement must be drawn up and signed. The agreement specifies the following:

  • format for data delivery
  • delivery schedule
  • service content
  • price.

The agreement will enter into force once both parties have signed it. After the agreement has been signed, the data are compiled and converted into the desired format by Statistics Finland, and then delivered to the researcher as agreed. Research data may be released for use in the remote access service, at the Statistics Finland research laboratory, or in certain cases, released to the researcher. You are welcome to send feedback about research data to the Research Services to improve their quality and usability. 

More about the application process on the Statistics Finland website

4.3 User licence terms

According to the terms of the user licence, data may only be used for the purpose specified in the user licence decision. The data must be treated as confidential and never conveyed or surrendered to third parties without the express permission of Statistics Finland. It is prohibited for the data users to attempt to identify the data subjects included in the data. Every person who processes the data must sign a pledge of secrecy.

User licences are typically granted for a limited period. You must therefore give an estimate in your user licence application of the period for which you will need the data (as specified for your purpose of use). As an exception, no time limit may be set if it proves impossible for the data’s purpose of use, and all aspects of data protection can be accounted for in other ways. 

After their user licence expires, the researcher will no longer have access to the remote access system, and any data released outside Statistics Finland must be returned or destroyed after the licence’s expiration date. All copies and intermediate files of the data must also be destroyed. The data destruction must be reported to Statistics Finland. The obligation of secrecy remains in effect after the user licence expires. The licensed user is responsible for keeping the licence valid by applying for an extension ahead of time if necessary. 

The licensed user may be required to present their survey or research to Statistics Finland for a data protection review prior to publication. Statistics Finland must be named as a source when the research results are published. Copies of all published final products or their reference information must be sent to Statistics Finland. 

There is a statutory penalty for violating the provisions on secrecy, non-disclosure and prohibition of use concerning use of data. Researchers committing these violations may be fined or sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison.

Violations of the user licence terms and rule breaches will affect the organisation’s and/or researcher’s right to future user licences for Statistics Finland data.

4.4 Remote access system

Statistics Finland operates the FIONA remote access system that allows researchers to open a remote network connection from their local workstation to the Statistics Finland server. Researchers can use the remote access system for secure access to Statistics Finland data. Research results and other materials may only be transferred from the system after review.

The remote access system also allows secure use of data from other authorities without data from Statistics Finland. In this case, no user licence is required – you need to use the remote access order application.

System login

The remote access system supports login using the Virtu/State Treasury identification service, Haka, and EduGAIN. Logins to FIONA will be verified with Duo Mobile authentication. This requires the installation of the Duo Mobile phone app by Duo Security.


Each project has a dedicated workspace with included analysis software (SPSS, Stata, R, etc.). In microsimulations, you have access to the SAS EG software for using the SISU microsimulation model.

System access is subject to a charge, and usage information will be logged for invoicing, system maintenance and monitoring purposes.

For more information about using the remote access system, see section 5 Good remote access practices.

Joining the remote access system

After you have received your user licence, you must verify if your organisation or institute has a valid agreement for remote access to research data (“organisation agreement”) with Statistics Finland.

  1. If your organisation does not have an agreement for remote access, contact the Research Services at Statistics Finland, and submit your remote connection information security and data protection statements to Statistics Finland. Statistics Finland will draw up the agreement for opening and maintaining the remote access connection (organisation agreement). The agreement specifies the terms of service and your organisation’s administrative and technical contact persons.
  2. Every researcher participating in remote access must submit a personal remote access agreement if none exists previously. All users must read the rules and instructions of the Research Services and sign a personal remote access agreement (specific to the researcher).
  3. Statistics Finland creates a project folder in the remote access system for the project and enables remote connections from the IP addresses specified by the customer for the users’ workstations.

The figure below illustrates the different stages of the remote access process.

Figure. Remote access process

During the remote access process, we verify that the organisation has a valid remote access agreement and remote access statement, and that the researchers have read the rules and instructions and made their personal remote access agreements. Only then will the project folder and researcher accounts be created in the remote access system.

For data processing in the remote access system, see section 5 Good remote access practices. For data protection, see section 3 Statistical data protection of research data.

Researchers working abroad (in the EU) can use remote access through a Finnish organisation with a valid remote access agreement. They must use the workspace specified in their personal remote access agreement. Remote connections are made through the Finnish organisation, not directly to Statistics Finland. Access from abroad requires an approved user licence decision.