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More safe settings to access SecureLab as the new SafePod network is launched

The new UKRI-ESRC SafePod Network (SPN) is set to become the first service in the world to provide a nationwide network of standardised safe settings or secure environments (known as SafePods) to enable approved researchers across the UK to use sensitive datasets to better understand our society and economy.

We are pleased to announce that accredited researchers are now able to use the new SafePods to access all datasets which have a controlled access condition through the UK Data Service SecureLab and have been approved by the data controller for use in SafePods. Researchers will also be able to use the SafePods to securely access government, study and survey datasets from Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) projects, ONS Secure Research Service and SAIL Databank.

As experts in enabling secure research access to data, having collaboratively developed the Five Safes framework in 2017 and the Handbook on Statistical Disclosure Control for Outputs, the UK Data Service has advised throughout this project.

Professor Matthew Woollard, Director of the UK Data Service, said:

“The controlled data we provide access to via the SecureLab will now be more accessible to accredited researchers across the UK. What better way to celebrate the UK Data Service SecureLab’s 10th anniversary than to extend its reach across the UK to enable more research that could benefit society.”

Darren Lightfoot, SPN Manager at the University of St Andrews, said:

“I am delighted to announce the launch of the SafePod Network, which will provide researchers with many new access points across the UK. The major benefit of a SafePod to a researcher is that they will be able to have local remote access to project datasets, without the need for long distance travel to a dedicated safe setting provided by a Data Centre.”

Frequent questions

I am an accredited researcher, where can I book to use a SafePod?

SafePods have already been installed at the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Central Lancashire, Exeter, Glasgow Caledonian, Liverpool, London School of Economics and Political Science, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Ulster, York and at The National Archives. A further 12 are planned with all installations expected to be completed by 2022.

Safepods can be booked by accredited researchers through the SPN website.

How do I become an accredited researcher to access the UK Data Service SecureLab through my nearest SafePod?

Researchers still need to follow our application and accreditation process to apply to access the UK Data Service SecureLab through the SafePods. This includes successfully completing the Safe Researcher Training, SecureLab project application and approval process.

What data collections can I apply to access through the UK Data Service SecureLab in my SafePod?

Search controlled data in the UK Data Service data catalogue

What is a SafePod?

A SafePod is a small prefabricated room, designed to replicate a traditional safe setting and includes security features such as a door control access system, CCTV camera and secure storage areas for IT hardware and equipment. No datasets are held within a SafePod. Instead a secure connection is provided from a SafePod to a Data Centre for a researcher to view and analyse their project datasets.

What is the Five Safes framework?

This framework, collaboratively developed by the UK Data Service in 2017, has become best practice in data protection whilst fulfilling the demands of open science and transparency and was adopted in 2020 by a range of other secure labs across the UK including Health Data Research-UK (HDR-UK) and the National Institute for Health Research Design Service (NIHR).

More resources

Universities and other organisations interested in hosting a SafePod, and researchers interested in accessing them, should email the SPN.

Further information