Initiated by the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Research Council, the 1997 International Record Linkage Workshop and Exposition was held on March 20–21, 1997 in Arlington, Virginia. More than 200 people were in attendance, and, because the facilities were limited, another 200 interested individuals had to be turned away.

The workshop had two main goals: first, we wanted to celebrate Howard Newcombe's pioneering practical work on computerized record linkage, which began in the 1950s—see, e.g., Newcombe, Kennedy, Axford, and James (1959), “Automatic Linkage of Vital Records,” which appeared in Science—and the theoretical underpinnings of his work, which were formalized in the 1960s by Ivan Fellegi and Alan Sunter in their classic 1969 paper “A Theory for Record Linkage,” published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. Second, we wanted to broadly update the methodological and technological developments in record linkage research and their applications since the March 1985 Workshop on Exact Matching Methodologies, held in Washington, D.C. The proceedings from that earlier conference, Record Linkage Techniques— 1985, have been widely cited; but much new work has been done since then.


Readers are fortunate to find in the current volume recent papers by two of the pioneers in record linkage research—Fellegi and Newcombe —as well as the work of many others who are exploring various aspects of exact matching techniques. Some of the new areas of related research reflect increased privacy concerns due to record linkage; the growing interest in record linkage as a means for more efficient use of scarce statistical resources; the heightened importance of linkage technology for such policy areas as health care reform; issues related to the physical security of data; and measurement of the risk of nondisclosure and reidentification in public-use microdata files.

The format for Chapters 1 through 10 of this volume essentially follows that of the 1997 workshop agenda —with a section (Chapter 11) added to highlight key contributions made to the literature since the publication of Record Linkage Techniques—1985. In those few cases where a paper was not available, the conference workshop abstract is provided. Chapter 12, a tutorial presented in the form of slides, includes a glossary of terms on pages 477–479. The report concludes with a section (Chapter 13) describing software demonstrated at the workshop. The appendix lists attendees who participated in the March 1997 workshop and accompanying software expositions.

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