The quantity of biomedical and population data from clinical studies, work on genomics, health records and administrative functions is ever increasing. Making this data available to researchers can lead to new scientific discoveries on a scope and scale not previously possible.
The challenge for the academic community is how to share this data safely and securely by creating the necessary infrastructure, resources, capacity, and frameworks to realise this unprecedented opportunity.
The Medical Research Council is a key driver in the safe sharing of data, investing more than £100m in informatics infrastructure and capabilities since 2012, including in the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and the medical bioinformatics initiative.
Developing our safe share pilot
To meet this challenge Jisc has been working with universities within the Farr Institute and the Administrative Data Research Centres to help researchers access and use sensitive health, biomedical and administrative data safely and securely.
Two such universities involved in this type of research are Cardiff and Swansea, who have successfully accessed sensitive data sets between the institutions via our safe share pilot – a secure encrypted overlay network that saves time and resources so universities can focus their efforts on what they do best.
As the Farr Institute says: #datasaveslives.
How safe share works
Safe share works by creating encrypted tunnels over existing networking infrastructure, for example over Jisc’s Janet network or the internet.
University project sites are supplied with secure routers to connect to their safe settings and an encrypted connection is constructed to CESG standards1 to connect to the safe share core in Jisc's secure data centre.
Safe share keeps the different overlay networks separate, this means that we can provide different levels of protection to match different members’ requirements.
Achieving the milestone of ‘real researchers’ using safe share, we have demonstrated that setting up a managed overlay network simplifies secure connectivity for an institution, allowing projects to make data requests on a more impromptu basis because they know all the endpoints are secure.
Who's taking part so far?
We are also piloting safe share with the London Borough of Hillingdon as a means of extending the reach of the public services network.
Find out more
If you’re interested in finding out more about the pilot and our future plans, please do get in touch with me.
- 1 Find out more about CESG assisted products scheme on the National Cyber Security Centre website - https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/scheme/products-cesg-assisted-products-service