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The ZEW provides external scientists with a range of research data sets. The ZEW research data offered at ZEW-FDZ is individual data collected through ZEW business surveys and ZEW expert surveys.

Data from certain ZEW surveys will be accessible for external scientists in a factually anonymized form of Scientific Use Files. In addition to the usage of these Scientific Use Files, external scientists have the opportunity to work with formally anonymized ZEW data within FDZ premises at ZEW on request. Formally anonymized data sets contain neither names nor addresses but all other original data of the interviewed people and are stored on a stand-alone computer without network connection which does not allow downloading any data. With regard to the Mannheim Innovation Panel (MIP) absolutely anonymized Education Use Files have been created for the use in teaching.

The use of ZEW data by external researchers is limited to  research projects. In particular commercial or any other business purposes, involving expert opinions – free of charge or against payment – for private or public clients, is not permitted. The use of data in the context of teaching is also forbidden, with the exception of the MIP Education Use Files. The external researches are required to work for a publicly funded research institution (§16 (6) BStatG). ZEW data is provided for doctoral candidates and PhD students in particular.

In November 2012, ZEW-FDZ was accredited by the German Data Forum (RatSWD).