about the spn

The SPN provides a major change in the way that administrative and other sensitive datasets can be accessed and researched from across the UK.

The major function of the SPN is the operation of a network of independent standardised safe settings (known as SafePods).  SafePods operate under the same policies and procedures and provide accredited researchers with access to multiple participating Data Centre datasets, including SAIL Databank, UK Data Service and the Office for National Statistics. 

spn objectives

The major objectives of the SPN are to:

  • Significantly improve the quantity and diversity of public benefit research by providing researchers with equitable and secure access to data through the provision of a network of standardised safe settings (SafePods) across the UK;
  • Improve and widen the sharing of data held by data centres across the UK for public benefit research; and
  • Provide clear information and sign posting for researchers to be able to access data for public benefit research from all safe settings across the UK.


The SPN provides the following benefits for research:

  • Encouraging research by providing a researcher with local secure access to datasets from a SafePod.  SafePods remove the geographical, time and cost barriers that has previously existed for researchers to attend the limited and fragmented safe settings in the UK.
  • Providing opportunities to Data Centres to start or widen access to their sensitive datasets for research across the UK;
  • Providing flexibility for use by providing secure access to different Data Centre's datasets from the same SafePod;
  • Simplifying the safe setting accreditation process for a Data Centre.  As all SafePods and security policies are standardised, the accreditation of one SafePod accredits all SafePods;
  • Enabling dataset provision by removing the complex barrier for a Data Centre to set up and manage their own safe settings;
  • Allowing organisations to undertake their own confidential research using their SafePod.

SPN structure

The SPN comprises of the following:

  • A network of SafePods based within higher education institutions and other UK Research and Innovation funded organisations across the UK;
  • A website providing information about the SPN and to book SafePods;
  • Policies, procedures and assurances for the operation, management and security of SafePods;
  • A secure IT system to provide remote access to research datasets;
  • A CCTV service to enable Data Centres to view and monitor activity within a SafePod;
  • A dedicated User Support Service to assist stakeholders with SPN enquiries; and
  • An Advisory Board to steer the long term objectives of the SPN.

management AND FUNDING

The SPN is run by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research and both are part of the Administrative Data Research UK programme. The SPN will be a key resource for providing secure access to datasets made available through the programme.  The SPN is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation

SPN people






Professor Chris Dibben is the director of the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, which manages the SPN.  He is also the director for the Longitudinal Studies Centre Scotland and is based at the University of Edinburgh.

Darren Lightfoot is a project manager at the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research.  His main responsibility is for the management of the SPN.  He is based at the University of St Andrews.



Professor Matthew Woollard is the Director of the UK Data Service and UK Data Archive.  Matthew provides strategic guidance to the SPN and is a member of their Advisory Board.  He is based at the University of Essex.



    Professor David Ford is Co-Director of the SAIL     Databank. David also provides strategic guidance to
    the SPN and is a member of their Advisory Board. He is     based at Swansea University.