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Cambridge University Library

Picture shows the corner of the Safepod which is made of strips of different-coloured metal, and is lit from underneath creating a glow on the carpet

The University of Cambridge has become one of the first places in the UK to receive a ‘SafePod’, which is now available for use in the University Library. 


A SafePod is a small prefabricated room which provides the necessary security and controls to enable a researcher to access and work on sensitive data.  

The Cambridge SafePod is part of a countrywide network of standardised safe settings - the SafePod Network - which enables approved researchers across the UK to securely access data to better understand our society and economy. By the end of 2022, 25 SafePods will have been installed. Based primarily at universities, the network removes the travel, cost and time barriers that researchers have previously faced in order to attend the handful of existing dedicated safe settings in the UK.  


"Until recently, researchers based in many parts of the UK could not access administrative datasets securely and easily.

This probably meant important research for public benefit did not happen.

Now, with the SafePods being installed across the UK, no researcher should be far from an access point – transforming the UK research landscape."

Professor Chris Dibben, SafePod Network Director 



Many of the datasets available for research access via the Safepod Network are based on the administrative records of millions of people across the UK - data that is not originally created for research, but rather created and recorded when people interact with public services. They also include sources such as the electoral register and censuses.  

The security of this data is vital. Strict controls are already in place for their research use, and the datasets are either de-identified or anonymised before they can be used. SafePods maintain the physical security needed for research use of these datasets and enable researchers to provide valuable insights about how our society and economy function, without compromising anyone’s privacy. 


A wealth of government datasets, as well as study and survey datasets, are available for secure access from SafePods. This includes new linked datasets created by Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) projects, such as the groundbreaking Data First programme at the Ministry of Justice, and the majority of datasets held by the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service, the UK Data Service and SAIL Databank

In most cases no data is held inside a SafePod, and instead access is provided by secure remote connection to the server of the organization that holds the required dataset. Policies and procedures are in place across the SafePod Network to enable researchers to access data effectively and appropriately. The SafePod has enhanced digital and physical security measures, including alarms and door controls. It is accessible by wheelchair, and has adjustable lighting and workspace. 


"Joining the SafePod Network makes it convenient for researchers across our city and the wider area to securely – and equitably - access a wide range of data.

The SafePod is a valuable addition to the resources available through Cambridge University Libraries. We hope that access to public sector data will enrich research here that may, in turn, inform public policies."

Dr Jessica Gardner, University Librarian and Director of Library Services, University of Cambridge


To access the SafePod at the University of Cambridge follow the instructions on the University Library’s SafePod page


The SafePod Network is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and run by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research as part of the ADR UK programme. Further information is available at  


Published 31 March 2022