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Regional Safe Havens awarded £300k to simplify access to data for research

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Research Data Scotland

25 Jan 2024

Research Data Scotland (RDS) has funded a collaborative project between Scotland’s Regional Safe Havens, supporting better coordination and consistency across data systems.

The funding comes from the second round of the RDS Systems Development Fund and will see the Regional Safe Havens adopt the SATRE specification for standardising data governance systems. SATRE, which stands for Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments, was funded as a DARE UK Driver Project in 2023. SATRE aims to bring greater consistency to the Regional Safe Havens through evaluation against the specification and outlining common standards across the network. Learn more about the SATRE project in this video.

A total of £300,000 has been awarded to the four Regional Safe Havens, which provide secure access to local health data for research. The Regional Safe Havens (Grampian Data Safe Haven, the Health Informatics Centre, DataLoch and the West of Scotland Safe Haven) are Trusted Research Environments (TREs) – highly secure computing environments through which researchers can access de-identified data and work on approved projects in the public benefit.

Each Regional Safe Haven will receive £72,500 from the Systems Development Fund. The Health Informatics Centre (HIC), which also leads the SATRE project, will receive an additional £10,000 to provide project management support.

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of Research Data Scotland, said:

“We’re delighted to continue to support the Regional Safe Havens as they work towards greater consistency in the Scottish data landscape. There is a wealth of health data in Scotland, and this collaborative project is a vital step towards realising its potential for generating insights and improving lives.”

Dr Christian Cole, Senior Lecturer in Health Informatics at the University of Dundee and Academic Co-Director of HIC said:

“The Safe Haven Network is ten years old and there is growing need for population-scale research to address important questions in health. Coupled with that, there’s a need to improve efficiency with research data in Scotland to support significant advances in research methods whilst maintaining our high levels of security. By adopting the SATRE specification and standardising governance across the Regional Safe Havens, the Scottish TRE network will stay ahead of the pace of change across the UK, leading the way for an improved TRE infrastructure and reinforcing the case for further investment in Scotland.”

About the fund

The Systems Development Fund aims to support Scotland’s Regional Safe Havens and enable developments in Scotland’s data systems. The priorities for the second funding round are to:

  • Support joint working/federation across the Regional Safe Havens, as outlined in the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Data Strategy.
  • Pilot or support specialisation in a particular Regional Safe Haven, or expand something that is happening at one safe haven across others.
  • Support working between National and Regional Safe Havens.
  • Support developments that align with those deliverables that mention the data safe havens in the innovation chapter of the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Data Strategy.
  • Help to ‘fill in’ geographical gaps.

The Regional Safe Havens

The Regional Safe Havens are:

Grampian Data Safe Haven (DaSH) (Aberdeen) – A Trusted Research Environment established by the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian to allow for the secure processing and linking of health, social care and other administrative data for the Grampian and Scottish population.

Health Informatics Centre (HIC) (Dundee) – A TRE for the Scottish Government and the NHS Tayside, NHS Fife and NHS Forth Valley Health Boards delivering secure, research-managed access to data under robust governance control.

DataLoch (Edinburgh) – Developed in partnership by the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian, DataLoch supports health and social care priorities by bringing together health and social care data for the South-East Scotland region and provides safe access to data for researchers.

West of Scotland Safe Haven (Glasgow) – A collaboration between NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC) Research & Innovation and the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, the West of Scotland Safe Haven provides a secure environment for hosting data projects and providing data linkage services to diverse NHS Scotland health data sources. 

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