University of Bristol: Bristol to benefit from new ‘SafePod’ enabling scientists to access secure data on site

The security of data used for research is vital, as many datasets are based on the administrative records of millions of people across the UK. Strict controls are already in place for their research use, and the datasets are either de-identified or anonymised before they can be used. SafePods maintain the physical security needed for research use of these datasets and enable researchers to provide valuable insights about how our society and economy function, without compromising anyone’s privacy.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC] and run by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research as part of the Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) programme, researchers can book a SafePod through the new SafePod Network website. Priority access will be given for research that is deemed critical to society and the economy.

The new service means researchers can access and work on new linked datasets created by ADR UK projects, such as the Data First programme at the Ministry of Justice, and datasets held by the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service, the UK Data Service and SAIL Databank.

Professor Chris Dibben, SafePod Network Director, said: “Until recently, researchers based in many parts of the UK could not access administrative datasets securely and easily. This probably meant important research for public benefit did not happen. Now, with the SafePods being installed across the UK, no researcher should be far from an access point – transforming the UK research landscape.”

Debra Hiom, Associate Director of Library Services at the University of Bristol, added: “We are delighted to be hosting one of the first SafePods at Bristol. Having access to virtual services is even more important in the current circumstances and we have a number of researchers who are eager to make use of the new facility.”

Pete Stokes, Director of the Integrated Data Programme at ONS added: “The SafePod Network will provide a secure, convenient, way for analysts to access a wide range of data, stored in the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service and elsewhere, which can only increase the range and volume of valuable research undertaken, providing better evidence for decision-making and delivering significant public benefits.”

Other organisations set to receive a SafePod include the Universities of Bath, Central Lancashire, Exeter, Glasgow Caledonian, Liverpool, London School of Economics and Political Science, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Ulster, York and The National Archives. A total of 25 SafePods are planned with all installations expected to be completed by 2022.

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