Secure Data Service: Making an impact after year one
Article dated: 25 July 2012
When it was launched in spring
2011, the Secure Data Service
was a grand experiment, a first-ofits-
kind service designed to
balance the competing tensions
between researchers needing
access to detailed microdata and
those seeking to protect sensitive
information about businesses and
One year later the Service has acquired,
processed and prepared 37 datasets. More
than 200 researchers are trained to handle
data safely and ethically using the Service's
secure Citrix environment. An average of 30
researchers are now logging in each day
from institutions across the UK. And there are
dozens of research outputs and publications
already in the works.
Despite the added training and
responsibilities necessary to become a
member, the Service is already proving
valuable to researchers.
"The SDS is the best thing that's happened to
empirical research on the UK in the last 10
years," says Ralf Martin, London School of
Economics. "Not having to leave my office to
work with microdata will increase my
productivity by several orders of magnitude."
"I find the interactive environment quite useful
as I"m able to work on the same document
with colleagues that are 200 miles away,"
says Catherine Robinson, University of
Swansea. "I think this has led to a better
understanding within the research team
because of it."
"The training ensures the data is kept secure,
as the user is fully aware of their legal
obligations," says Richard Harris, University
of Glasgow. "The SDS also provides ongoing
support which means issues and any
problems are solved in a timely manner."
Now firmly established, the Service is poised
to develop through new data acquisitions,
more streamlined and responsive processes,
and channels to support collaboration and
support among researchers, data owners and
staff. In addition, its benefits are extending
beyond the UK through collaboration with the
EU-funded Data without Boundaries project.