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Safepod in Bill Bryson Library

Approved researchers at Durham University will now be able to securely access Government Administration data to better understand our society and economy, as the University joins the national SafePod Network.

A ‘SafePod’ has been installed in the Bill Bryson Library, linking to the SafePod Network, a countrywide network of standardised safe settings. This allows researchers access to data created when people interact with public services, and includes sources such as the electoral register and censuses. Accessibility to the SafePod will encourage the use of large real life datasets, ensuring rigorous research with potential to make a real difference.

Although not originally created for research, administrative data has great potential to provide insights to help policymakers make better informed decisions. Giving trained researchers access to this data enables them to build a more comprehensive and useful picture of society.

Keeping data secure

The security of data used for research is vital, as many of the datasets in question 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.

Professor Stephen Gorard from the Evidence Centre for Education, explained; “It is important that sensitive data about individuals is kept confidential and protected. Part of the solution is the new ESRC-funded SafePod now installed in the Bill Bryson library site. Here, research staff and students can conveniently access secure data in a specially created safe environment.”

Investing in research

Professor Jane Macnaughton, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) believes this is a positive step to keeping our researchers at the forefront of their fields, she said; “The SafePod will support our research community to expand their boundary-breaking research into new and exciting areas for the benefit of improving lives across the world. Where researchers have previously had to travel long distances to use accredited safe-rooms, having a SafePod on campus will improve access for our academic community. This will help to limit the need for travel in order to consult valuable data assets and contribute to the University’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact.”

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