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Type of Data Files Available

Students may request to use Research Identifiable files (RIF), Limited Data Sets (LDS), or Public Use Files (PUF)/Non-Identifiable data for their studies. Determining which type of data to use may depend on the amount of time you have to request and use the data, the detail required and the funds available to purchase the data. The article “Differences between RIF, LDS, and PUF Data Files” describes the differences in more detail.

Research Identifiable Request Process

Data Use Agreements (DUAs) are study specific. Therefore, students interested to use RIF data need to submit a request and establish a DUA to cover the dissertation research. Even if the student is working with researchers on a study and the analyses are related to the dissertation, the student will need to apply for a separate DUA to cover the dissertation research.

Once a student determines that RIF data are necessary for his/her project, the student should review “What you need to know before you submit a request” page to prepare the request. The RIF request process will take between 3-5 months, so RIF data is not appropriate for short-term projects. The CMS Research Identifiable Request Process & Timeline provides an overview of the steps.

Students are required to complete the same paperwork as other requestors. The “Request Material Tool” will guide you to the documents you need to submit a request to CMS. Students are considered “Academic” researchers. Students are not able to sign as the “User” (legal authority) on the DUA. Either the supervising faculty member (e.g. dissertation chair) OR the legal authority at the organization would sign the DUA as User.

Cost of Data

Students are required to pay for new data. The “CMS Fee Information for CMS Research Identifiable Data” includes the “CMS Fee List for Research Files”. 

If, however, the student’s organization already holds the data needed for the dissertation research, the student can request to reuse the data. The reuse fee is $2,000, but CMS waives the reuse fee for student dissertation research. A student can email DataUseAgreement@cms.hhs.gov and request a list of all DUAs for his/her organization to find out if anyone holds a particular dataset.