Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Step-by-step guide to accessing SLS data

FAO new researchers and enquiries – scroll down for the step-by-step guide to accessing SLS data. 


Policy in the event of SLS Safe Setting emergency closure: as we are a small team based in New Register House, we may need to close the Safe Setting at short notice due to adverse weather conditions, staff sickness or another emergent situation.  We will aim to contact everyone booked into the safe setting before 8.30am on the day of closure. 

  • Security clearance application form: BPSS Amiqus Request Form Ver 2.0 (Word 72KB) 
  • Security clearance info: SLS Guide to applying for BPSS Amiqus Clearance V2.0 April 2024  (PDF 205KB)
  • Privacy & data processing information on Scottish Government’s use of Amiqus 
  • Safe Setting Guidelines have been replaced (as of 13/02/23) by the LSCS Safe Haven User Agreement V2.1 26-06-23 (PDF 670KB).  Researchers no longer need to complete a form for every visit.  It is the responsibility of the researcher to read the agreement and familiarise yourself with the changes.  Acceptance of the conditions set out in the agreement is via the login screen disclaimer in the Safe Haven.  Please speak to your SO if you have any questions. 
  • Project Extensions – Existing researchers who wish to extend their project should complete the SLS-Project-Extension-Form-v9.3 March 2023  (Word 96KB). This cut-down form is only applicable if the research question and type of variables have not altered significantly since your original application.  All new or significantly altered projects should apply via the standard process below.

Step-By-Step Guide to Accessing the SLS Data – for enquiries and new researchers

In this section we explain how to access the data step by step. The same process is required for all projects, regardless of whether the data will be accessed remotely or in the safe-setting. Some pilot work to test whether a particular research question is feasible may be possible and this can be discussed – please contact us to discuss.


1. Formulate your research question

You should explore this website, and particularly the data dictionary, (see what data are included) to see whether the SLS is appropriate for your research question, and you may find it helpful to contact us to discuss your ideas. It might also be useful to investigate existing SLS projects and outputs.

2. Contact the SLS helpdesk

If you decide you are interested in using the SLS please contact our helpdesk, (we will respond within a 5 day timescale) or for using all 3 LS studies get in touch with CALLS Hub. After discussing the initial feasibility of your project idea with the NRS SLS Project Manager, you will be allocated a Support Officer who will work with you to further develop your ideas. Your project will be allocated a project number at this point.

3. Attend a training session

We strongly encourage all users to attend one of our ‘Introduction to the SLS’ training sessions, which are held twice a year. Depending on timing, it may be inconvenient for some users to wait for a training session prior to starting their project, and so it is not obligatory to attend one of these sessions. For information on the next training session to be held visit our Events section.

4. Complete an application form

Once you have discussed your project in detail with your Support Officer, you must download and complete an SLS-Application-Form-v7.2-July-2023 (Word 351KB). In this form you will be asked to provide information about your proposed research including a list of the variables you require. Please log into the online SLS Data Dictionary to easily download this list along with the restriction level.  If you wish to link your own data to the SLS this must also be detailed.

5. Complete an SLS undertaking form

An SLS-Undertaking-Form-v5.4 June 2023 (Word 81KB) must be signed by you and any collaborators with whom you are working (and who may wish to view pre-publication (intermediate) outputs. The form covers disclosure, confidentiality and ethical issues relating to your project to ensure you are aware of your responsibilities when using SLS data.  If you are applying to use synthetic data in your research project a Synthetic Data Undertaking Form (Word 80KB) will need to be signed by you and your collaborators. At this point you should also familiarise yourself with the SDC Protocol V1.0 (Feb 2019) (PDF 166KB) and the SLS-SDC-Guidance-v3.5-Apr2023  (PDF 2 MB).

No access will be permitted to SLS data or outputs for anyone who has not signed the Undertaking Form. 

6. Attain SLS Approved Researcher Status and accreditated Safe Researcher Training

All new researchers are required to attain Approved Researcher status by completing the SLS Approved Researcher Application (Word 205KB).  For researchers undertaking postgraduate studies a Student Accreditation Form (Word 893KB) must be completed by your supervisor.  In addition, a Census Confidentiality Undertaking form needs to be signed, given the SLS includes Census data.  This can be obtained from the NRS SLS Project Manager.

As part of becoming an SLS Approved Researcher, applicants are required to complete suitable Information Governance training –  The SLS accept ONS Safe Researcher Training (ONS SRT) run in England by the ONS or in Edinburgh by the SCADR team (links below).  Anyone working directly with the SLS data or any project members who wish to view pre-publication (stage 1 intermediate) outputs at any point, must have up-to-date ONS/SCADR SRT and be listed on the SLS Undertaking Form. 

The SLS require SRT to be refreshed every 3 years from the test date, regardless of whether the SRT certificate states a longer period of validity. 

As of 17th April 2024, we no longer accept the MRC Research Data Confidentiality Certificate.  All initial and refresher training must be via ONS or SCADR at the links below.

Please note that the ONS Approved Researcher status is separate from the SLS Approved Researcher status – see ONS Approved Researcher Scheme

7. Applying for NHS Data

If you wish to use health data from NHS health data you must also complete an application form for submission to the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel (PBPP) through your Support Officer and an eDRIS Research Coordinator. For your convenience, we have prepared a TEMPLATE-HSC-PBPP-Part-Filled-Application-form-v4.2_updated 7 Oct 2022 (Word 162KB) which corresponds to PBPP Application Form v4.0 on the PBPP website.  More information on completing the PBPP application form can be found in the HSC-PBPP-Guidance-for-Applicants-v4.0  (Word 101KB) or on the PBPP website.

You are required to seek ethical approval from your own organisation.

For information on getting started with health data and what is available for research use please look at the online Health and Social Care Data Dictionary and this NHS Catalogues Pack (PDF 10MB)

8. Gain approval from the SLS Research Board

Once the final version of the application form has been returned to your Support Officer, it will then be reviewed by the NRS SLS Project Manager who may have final questions ahead of submitting to the SLS Research Board (this process can take up to 2 weeks). The SLS Research Board will assess whether your project should be supported and may provide some advice on how it could be improved. The Research Board includes representatives from the SLS team and all the other major data suppliers (see SLS Governance ).

Approval from the board usually takes around 6-8 weeks.  Only once approval is granted by both the SLS Research Board and all appropriate approvals are in place can you proceed. No access will be permitted to SLS data or outputs for anyone who has not signed the Undertaking Form. 

9. Dataset creation

Once the project has been approved by the SLS Research Board and a completed Undertaking Form returned, the SLS Support Officer will ask the Database Manager to create your own user-specific subset of the SLS. The creation of this dataset may involve some dialogue between the researcher and Support Officer in order to meet your requirements. If you have data of your own to link into the dataset this should be provided to your Support Officer. Your Support Officer will inform you when your dataset is ready for you to use. Typically, after a request for extraction this process takes 2-4 weeks.  Please note that all SLS data extracts are initially provided with labels in either Stata or SPSS. We do have Stat Transfer available to switch formats to R or SAS if it would be problematic to read in Stata/SPSS extracts.

10. Analysis

As described in Methods for accessing SLS data currently the analysis may involve visiting the NRS Safe Setting room and working alongside SLS-DSU staff, being provided with a synthetic version of your main (wide version) dataset to work on remotely (for more info please synthetic data) or towards the end of a project remote submitting syntax files (command files) to run models. Our computers have standard statistical software such as SPSS and Stata, along with Word, Excel and notepad.

If you require any specialist software please discuss this with SLS-DSU staff and it may be possible to have it installed in the Safe Setting; for example we also offer R but this is not officially supported by SLS-DSU staff. As we work on a non-internet secure network, R packages are to be requested (via a SLS Software Request Form (Word 31KB) ) for installation prior to working with SLS extracts.  See our currently installed R packages (Excel 25KB).

We also have installed, but again do not officially support, SAS, however our license will expire in summer 2023. Once our University of Edinburgh licence expires, it may be possible to bring your own licence to work within the Safe Setting.  Please discuss with SLS-DSU staff.

11. Data clearance & disclosure checks

After running your analyses you must prepare your output files to be cleared by the SLS team before they can be released to you. Researchers are asked to familiarise themselves with the SLS-DSU SDC Protocol V2.0 (Mar 2021) (PDF 166KB) and SLS-SDC-Guidance-v3.5-Apr2023 (PDF 2MB).  Please allow time at safe-setting visits to review and prepare your own output to make the stage (1) Pre-publication output request.  By focusing on requesting only important outputs and scanning these for potentially disclosive results, the process is facilitated and you will receive your cleared outputs more rapidly.   Clearing any stage (1) Pre-publication Output may take up to 10 working days during busy periods, especially for more complex and/or lengthy output. When asking for Pre-publication Outputs to be cleared please complete the SLS Pre-publication Outputs Clearance form, ensure that the outputs comply with all items on the Pre-publication Outputs checklist and save them in a numbered subfolder within the Reports/To_Be_Cleared folder.

Following clearance, output files are encrypted and emailed to the researcher. Check with your Support Officer which software will be used for encryption.

SLS Intermediate Outputs Clearance Form v1.1 (July 2021) (Word 60KB)

12. Publishing & presenting results

If you wish to disseminate your SLS results beyond your project team and its named associates you must obtain stage (2) Publication output clearance from the SLS Data Custodian, using the SLS Publication Clearance Request Form V5.5 Aug 2023 (Word 199 KB). This has to be completed for every Publication Output (including reuse of charts for talks in PPT or revised versions of journal papers to ensure the SLS is reported correctly and results not misinterpreted). Publication Outputs are all listed online at

Your completed form and output should be emailed to: 

This procedure covers all forms of dissemination including working papers, theses, posters, conference abstracts and presentations, reports and journal articles. For the time being, the minimum period to clear Publication Outputs is 20 working days as outputs will need to be reviewed by SLS-DSU staff before being approved by the NRS Data Custodian.  In addition, Pre-publication Outputs will require a minimum of 10 working days for clearance.   

The process for clearing Publication Outputs protects the SLS by reducing the risk of disclosure, ensuring that the study and data are properly described and ensuring that the data have been used appropriately. Key criteria are:

  • The results and discussion do not raise confidentiality or disclosure issues.
  • The SLS is described correctly.
  • The legend ‘Source: Scottish Longitudinal Study’ is added to tables and figures wherever appropriate.
  • The support of the LSCS is acknowledged using this disclaimer:

“The help provided by staff of the Longitudinal Studies Centre – Scotland (LSCS) is acknowledged. The LSCS is supported by the ESRC/JISC, the Scottish Funding Council, the Chief Scientist’s Office and the Scottish Government. The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data. Census output is Crown copyright and supplied by National Records of Scotland.  It is re-used under terms of the Open Government Licence

13. Notify the SLS team of all outputs

We ask all researchers to notify the SLS Support Team whenever work drawing on your SLS analyses is published. We maintain a database of all published SLS-based research (see Outputs ) which is important in ensuring future funding for the SLS-DSU.  Please notify us by emailing

Explore the variables held in the SLS data dictionary.

Recent News

Upcoming Events

Events feed unavailable

Latest SLS Tweets