Skip to main content

The UK's largest digital collection of social sciences and population research data

Secure Data Service

The Secure Data Service was an ESRC-funded service established to give qualified researchers safe, secure and free access to sensitive or confidential data that cannot be released under current End User Licence or Special Licence agreements.

Established at the UK Data Archive in late 2009 and developed during an extended pilot phase, the Secure Data Service was carefully designed to allow researchers to realise the full value of this important data while protecting the privacy of individuals and organisations.

From March 2011, it was supported with an online data catalogue, public website and specialised training for approved and accredited researchers.

How the data are secure

The Secure Data Service was made possible with funding from the ESRC and with support and advice from the Office for National Statistics along with data archives and technology experts from across Europe.

The Service was built on a security philosophy that includes both data technology and individual responsibilities. The system used a secure Citrix server, as used in the banking and military sectors. In addition, the Archive has been certified for its secure data handling procedures under the ISO 27001 standard.

Researchers apply to become a member of the Secure Data Service, which includes becoming an Approved or Accredited Researcher according to criteria set out by the Office for National Statistics and the ESRC. They also endorse a code of conduct that puts data security at the centre of all research activities.

They are supported with personalised face-to-face training on the laws surrounding research data, secure data handling and statistical disclosure control. To reduce the motivation to move data to a familiar desktop for analysis, users can access Secure Data Service data from their own higher education or research institution using secure remote technology. These measures are backed with meaningful penalties for any breaches.

SDS is now incorporated into the UK Data Service.

Archive contribution

The UK Data Archive held the ESRC award, and directed and managed the work of the SDS.

Principal Investigator: Melanie Wright
Funder: ESRC
Dates: December 2009 - September 2012
Contact: UK Data Service