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The SafePod Network: Eight months on

Last year, we celebrated the launch of the SafePod Network, a new UKRI-ESRC service that provides standardised safe settings (SafePods) across the UK to enable accredited researchers to access secure data without the need to travel to safe rooms, miles from home. UKDS SecureLab joined the network together with the Office for National Statistics SRS and SAIL Databank to widen safe research access to their secure data collections. Other UK data centres are also expected to join the network over time.

Having recently commemorated the UKDS SecureLab tenth anniversary, we are delighted the Safe Pod Network enables yet another way for accredited researchers to access controlled data through our Service. Just some of the controlled data collections we hold include data from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), NatCen Social Research, Office for National Statistics (ONS), Scottish Centre for Social Research and Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL).

Darren Lightfoot, SafePod Network Manager reflects on the progress of the network:

“The SafePod Network has come a long way since the launch in September 2021. The number of SafePods available to book across the UK has grown from 5 to 15, and this is set to hit 24 by the end of 2022. We are supporting researchers to access and use SafePods and working with more organisations to provide access to their data through the network.

“I am delighted to say that each month we are increasing the number of researchers registering with the network and booking SafePods to access data for their research. There are now also over 100 trained SafePod Coordinators in the UK that provide the operational management for SafePods.

“Furthermore, I am pleased to announce that the SafePod Network will be participating in the International Population Data Linkage Network conference later this year and demonstrating some of our services to improve access to data.”

What are the major research benefits of SafePods?

  • Enabling safe research by providing an accredited researcher with local secure access to their project datasets from a SafePod. SafePods remove the geographical, time and cost barriers that previously existed for researchers to attend the limited and fragmented safe settings in the UK.
  • SafePods provide access to different data centres from the same SafePod, and so open opportunities for researchers to easily work with different data.
  • The SafePod Network organises the necessary security and governance requirements with each Data Centre to provide access to their data from a SafePod. This removes the need for a researcher to implement these requirements at their organisation for each specific data centre, which can be costly and take time to administer.
  • SafePods provide a dedicated, quiet and comfortable environment from which researchers can analyse their data for research.
  • SafePods support remote and local access to data, allowing researchers to analysis a wide variety of different types of data and for other confidential research projects.
  • The SafePod Network website provides an easy to use booking system for researchers to book SafePods across the UK.

How do researchers access data in UKDS SecureLab from a SafePod?

Once a researcher is accredited to use UKDS SecureLab, accessing and using a SafePod is straight forward. Accredited researchers must first register with the SafePod Network at and pass a short training questionnaire based on SafePod policies. Once registered and providing a researcher has an approved project with the UKDS SecureLab, a researcher can then go ahead and book one of the SafePods based across the UK via the SafePod Network website.

Approvals for the booking and conditions of access to a SafePod for data in our collections are made by the UK Data Service and confirmed with the researcher. On the day of the booking, the researcher arrives at their chosen SafePod where they are met by a local SafePod Coordinator to complete security checks. Once these are complete then the researcher can go ahead and access their datasets from inside a SafePod.

What to expect from working in a SafePod

The SafePod Network supports researchers to access and use datasets from a SafePod. A dedicated user support service is provided to assist with enquiries and trained local staff at each SafePod assist researchers, including providing a SafePod induction.

Inside a SafePod, researchers will benefit from the comfortable, quiet and dedicated space that a SafePod provides to carry out their research. As mentioned, a fully adjustable desk and chair are available as well as large screen monitors (many SafePods have two monitors) to help support the researcher with analysis of their datasets.

Further information

More information about the SafePod Network is available at

The SafePod Network is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of the ADR UK programme. ‘SafePod’ is a registered trademark of the University of St Andrews.