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Scottish Safe Havens Network

Research Data Scotland (RDS) is working with the National Safe Haven and the four Scottish regional safe havens to simplify systems, processes and services for the benefit of researchers and, ultimately, the Scottish public.

What is the Scottish Safe Havens Network?

We are a network of Scottish Safe Haven secure data infrastructure created by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office (CSO) and supported by Research Data Scotland (RDS). The expert steering group operates under the Safe Havens Charter to ensure secure data access for research across Scotland and provides collaborative innovation and improvements in access to health, social care and administrative data, thereby enabling beneficial research.

The future investment in greater federation of technology, governance and administration across the Safe Haven Network will significantly improve access to data. By creating a federated/linked environment in which using data from two or more Safe Havens is secure and efficient, important research for the public benefit of Scotland is enabled.

Members of the Scottish Safe Havens Network are represented in the Scottish Safe Havens Steering Group. The remit of the Steering Group is to lead, develop and innovate projects that deliver federation of data from the Regional Safe Havens, as well as to align and coordinate objectives across the Safe Havens. 

For more general information on the Scottish Regional Safe Havens, please visit our data explainer on Trusted Research Environments (TREs)

Which organisations are involved?

Research Data Scotland (RDS) chairs the Scottish Safe Havens Steering Group and coordinates activities with input from member organisations. Membership comprises representatives from:

How often does the group meet?

The group meets monthly, usually online, on the last Monday of each month. We often have a relevant external speaker at meetings.

Security provisions

The Scottish Safe Havens Steering Group is accredited to ISO27001 or equivalent standard for information security management systems.

Systems Development Fund

Autumn 2023

The second round of the Systems Development Fund aimed to support the development of the four Regional Safe Havens in Scotland.

For Round 2, RDS funded projects which align with the following five priorities:

  1. Support joint working/federalisation across all the Regional Safe Havens, as outlined in the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Data Strategy.
  2. Pilot or support specialisation in a particular Regional Safe Haven, or expand something that is happening in one safe haven across others.
  3. Support working between national and regional Safe Havens.
  4. Support developments that align with those deliverables that mention the data safe havens in the research and innovation chapter of the Health and Social Care Data Strategy.
  5. Filling in the geographical gaps which exist between the four regional safe havens, and their respective health boards.

Learn more about the projects supported by the Systems Development Fund in 2023/24

What impact will the steering group have? 

We are working on a number of activities, including:

  • All Regional Safe Havens support the Data Saves Lives and Five Safes framework for public benefit and to enable efficient research.
  • A refresh of the Safe Havens Charter to bring it up to date with recent developments.
  • The ongoing first round of the Systems Development Fund and undertaking a second round of the fund.
  • Inputting into industrial use of data via the “Industry access to public sector data: Policy on data access, Scottish Government” review.
  • A project around how we communicate consistency and security regarding the safe havens in Scotland, and advocate for the key role they play in the data system. 
  • Calling for greater investment in trusted research environments (TREs) in Scotland to effectively, technically and materially, in modern infrastructure terms, connect the Scottish Data Safe Haven network (TREs/Secure Data Environments) with the NHS England SDE network in an interoperable and powerful system. 
  • Reviewing information governance and related processes, led by DataLoch (Edinburgh), and use cases, led by DaSH (Aberdeen).
  • Leading or participating in the ongoing DARE UK driver projects.
  • Coordinating other activities, such as responding to DARE UK and other funding calls. 

DARE UK driver projects

The Scottish Safe Havens are involved in all five ongoing DARE UK driver projects, and Research Data Scotland is leading the public engagement on two of the projects.


Semi-Automated Checking of Research Outputs, led by researchers at the University of the West of England. This project also involves collaboration with RDS, eDRIS at Public Health Scotland, DaSH (University of Aberdeen) and HIC (University of Dundee), along with the Bennett Institute at the University of Oxford, HDR UK, and NHS Scotland. RDS is leading the public engagement on this project, working with OPENSafely. 


DataLoch and DaSH are collaborating on the DARE UK-funded SARA project (Semi-Automated Risk Assessment of Data Provenance and Clinical Free-Text in TREs), which focuses on delivering semi-automated tools to improve privacy risk assessment and monitoring, and data provenance solutions to improve risk monitoring and auditing.


Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments, led by researchers at HIC (University of Dundee). This follows on from TREEHOOSE and GRAIMatter on standardised infrastructure and AI model disclosure control. RDS is leading the public engagement on this project.


Connecting researchers to big data at light speed, led by researchers at the University of Swansea. Other organisations involved in this project are eDRIS at Public Health Scotland, EPCC and RDS, who is supporting the public engagement on this project. 


Delivering a federated network of TREs to enable safe data analytics, led by researchers at the University of Manchester and supported by HIC (University of Dundee).

Further information  

Please visit our partners page for more information about the Scottish Regional Safe Havens

Further information is also available on the existing Safe Havens Charter and federations in the Charter. The Scottish Government Health and Social Care: Data Strategy also provides further context.

For more information, please contact Eilidh Guthrie, Partnerships Officer. 

Recent updates from the Regional Safe Havens

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PETs in the NHS

This guest blog authored by Dr Charlie Mayor of West of Scotland Safe Haven is part of a series spotlighting the work of Scotland’s Safe Havens, also known as Trusted Research Environments.

Read the blog
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Data Delight: a double celebration for HIC

This guest blog authored by Dr Laura Ward of the Health Informatics Centre (HIC) is part of a series spotlighting the work of Scotland’s Safe Havens, also known as Trusted Research Environments.

Read the blog
People walking up a path leading around and up a green hill under a blue sky.

Coming soon: the Scottish Safe Haven Charter 2.0

Eilidh Guthrie, Partnerships Officer and Jenny Johnston, Project Manager (Scottish Safe Haven Charter Refresh) give us an overview of recent work on the Scottish Safe Haven Charter.

Read the blog

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