LIDA joins the SafePod Network


The SafePod Network is delighted to announce that the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) has joined the SafePod Network.  Personal and sensitive research data stored and processed by LIDA at the University of Leeds and previously only accessible through its own physical safe rooms, can now be accessed through the SafePod Network.

Leeds Analytic Secure Environment for Research (LASER) is a cloud-based, trusted research environment (TRE) hosted in LIDA which researchers use to securely store, process and analyse personal and sensitive data. It hosts research data across health, societal (e.g. crime and social care) and environmental domains and supports AI and machine learning focused research.  While less sensitive data (known as Tier 1-3 data) has been accessible remotely via LASER for some years, LIDA has partnered with the SafePod Network, which is part of Administrative Data Research UK, to make the most sensitive data that can only be accessed through a safe room (Tier 4) accessible across the UK via the SafePod Network.

SafePods are standardised safe settings with the necessary security controls for researchers to securely access personal and other sensitive data for research. LIDA joins other major national Data Centres providing remote access to personal and sensitive data requiring a safe room setting through the network, including the Office for National Statistics, UK Data Service and SAIL Databank.

By joining the network, this data is now available through 23 SafePods across the UK.  With SafePods located in Universities from Exeter, to Dundee, to Ulster researchers will no longer have to travel to the University of Leeds to access this data, reducing effort, costs and time and opening exciting new opportunities for research.

For security reasons, no data is held in a SafePod. Instead, residency of the data is retained within LASER and a secure remote connection is made from a SafePod to LASER for approved researchers to access data.

LIDA also provides a new contribution to the growing improvement for secure data research in the UK by becoming the first TRE, on the SafePod Network, to provide users with the additional capability to deposit their own highly protected data on its platform. This also enables organisations and researchers to avoid the considerable time, cost and infrastructure requirements needed to set up their own TRE and promises to make many new sources of data available for important research that will benefit the public.

As well as secure data hosting, LASER also provides its own data analytics service with a dedicated team of specialists in data management, data analysis, software engineering and information security, who work with researchers across all stages of their projects.

Established in April 2021, the Microsoft-Azure LASER platform succeeded the previous physical servers on site, providing additional storage and management capabilities. In this time, it has supported 297 researchers, across 74 projects worth over £85 million in grant funding.  

Prof. Roy Ruddle, LIDA Director of Research Technology, said, “This next stage is the natural progression for LASER offering remote, but truly collaborative partnerships with colleagues from across the UK for internationally renowned research and education in interdisciplinary data science and artificial intelligence. Potential partners who have wanted to use our infrastructure to process the highest risk tier of data but could not reasonably justify the extensive travel required to use our Safe Rooms, now have it at their fingertips in their area and that’s really exciting, to think what doors this might open for projects already out there.

Adam Keeley, LIDA Data Analytics Team Manager, said “I’m really excited to be partnering with the SafePod Network to enable safe research across the UK on sensitive data which would otherwise prohibit such geographically expansive collaboration. By doing so we’ve effectively increased the number of locations from which our Safe Room restricted data can be accessed from one (in Leeds) to more than twenty across the UK! While there are obvious and immediate benefits to this I’m also looking forward to seeing how the research space reacts in novel and interesting ways.

Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, said, “Across ADR UK, we are working hard to improve equality of access to secure data across the UK. As such, it is fantastic that confidential data held in LASER will now become accessible to researchers across the UK – with the right permissions – through the SafePod Network. I am very pleased that the ADR UK programme has been able to facilitate this.”

a was only available from their safe rooms on campus at the University of Leeds.  By partnering with the SafePod Network, this data is now available for remote access from SafePods all across the UK.  No LIDA data is held in a SafePod, instead, residency of the data is retained within LASER and a secure remote connection is made from a SafePod to LASER for approved researchers to access data.