Integrated Data Service achieves accreditation

Category: Office for National Statistics

26 September 2023

Accreditation of the IDS for data provision demonstrates the confidence the UK Statistics Authority has in the security of data in the IDS and the processes in place to access it. The UK Statistics Authority is the statutory body responsible for the accreditation of processors, researchers and their projects.

The DEA offers a legal gateway that facilitates access to government administrative data for accredited research purposes. The DEA is compliant with GDPR legislation and supports valuable new research insights about UK society and the economy. Under the DEA, before data can be shared for research purposes, it must be processed so that the data is ‘de-identified’. This means that any personal information in the data that could be used to identify an individual is stripped out. Once the data has been de-identified it can be made available to an accredited researcher in an accredited secure environment such as the IDS for approved projects. 

Dominic Hale, Head of Strategy for the Integrated Data Programme saidApplying for DEA accreditation is a rigorous process, requiring the submission of detailed evidence which is scrutinised by members of the Research Accreditation Panel. Successful accreditation under the DEA provides formal recognition that the IDS is a safe and secure data provisioning platform, compliant with the five safes of secure data, and allows it to operate as a cloud-native trusted research environment.

The accreditation of the IDS for data provision under the DEA means the service is now permitted to consider applications from accredited researchers to analyse data in its secure analytical environment. Next steps for the IDS include working with the Research Accreditation Panel to implement their recommendations for the next stage of accreditation, as a data processor.

With this accreditation for data provision, research projects in the SRS can begin to transition to the IDS where the data is available in the new service. The ONS is working closely with ADR UK to replan this transition of existing projects and there is still no action required from users of the SRS at this stage. SRS users will be unaffected in the short term while the strategic approach and timelines are finalised, however, the initial transition of users will begin in 2023.

ADR UK's role in the transition to the IDS

As a key strategic partner of the ONS, ADR UK will continue to fund the creation of new, linked administrative datasets and research using these resources through the transition from the SRS to the IDS and beyond. The flagship datasets ADR UK already promotes to accredited researchers to access via the SRS include data owned by government departments and NHS England. These data owners have data-sharing agreements in place that allow (or will allow) accredited researchers to securely access their data via the SRS. Now that the IDS has DEA accreditation, ADR UK and ONS will continue to engage with data owners on the benefits of hosting data in the IDS versus the SRS.

ADR UK feels strongly that social and economic researchers need access to the appropriate tools to analyse data. The ONS is currently expanding the tools available in the IDS beyond the existing offer of R, Python and Google BigQuery to include additional software. ADR UK is working with the ONS to ensure the IDS can demonstrate that comparable analyses are possible using Python and R in the IDS environment, or that other comparable tooling to the SRS is made available in the IDS. 

In its mission to drive up the use of administrative data for public good research, ADR UK is also working closely with the ONS to ensure there is publicly available information about the data accessible to researchers in the IDS. The ONS SRS has a publicly available data catalogue that includes metadata and links to user guides. ADR UK is supporting the ONS to ensure there is comparable information available for the IDS. The IDS currently has a list of some of the data available in the service on their website. 

Keeping informed

The ONS will remain in contact with all current users of the SRS about the progress of transition plans. The ONS has updated their website with information following the engagement event earlier in the year. You can also email to request to sign up to their monthly newsletter.

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