The future of the ONS Secure Research Service: Introducing the Integrated Data Service
Categories: Datasets, Office for National Statistics
9 March 2023
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service has been providing secure access to de-identified data for accredited researchers for over 15 years. It is one of the largest trusted research environments in the UK.
The ONS is ADR UK’s major data infrastructure partner, with ADR UK directly funding the development and expansion of the ONS Secure Research Service. Around 6,000 accredited researchers have access to the Secure Research Service. Of these, around 1,500 are actively working on research projects at any given time.
A step change in the way data is made available for research
Many of you may have already heard that the ONS is developing the Integrated Data Service (IDS). This new data service is a government-backed initiative which will create a step change in the way data about our society and economy is made available for research in the UK. The IDS will link data to provide otherwise untapped insight and to enable rapid analysis using a growing range of integrated data assets.
Rapid advances in technology have opened the door for developments in the way users securely access data. The IDS will use updated cloud-based infrastructure to offer enhanced processing power while streamlining access arrangements. The de-identified data will be presented alongside analytical and visualisation tools with data indexing allowing for data to be joined together for deeper analysis.
There will be a phased transition
Currently, the IDS is only open to a limited number of government analysts while ONS develop and test the service. Once accredited as a data processor under the Digital Economy Act, it will open to accredited researchers to carry out secure analysis on approved projects that address major societal challenges.
There will be a phased transition from the Secure Research Service to the IDS once it is fully functional and operating smoothly. As a key strategic partner of the ONS, ADR UK will continue to fund the creation of new, linked administrative datasets, research using these resources, and the externally-facing service throughout the transition period and beyond.
Support will be available
The introduction of IDS will represent a change from the way researchers and analysts currently access data. To support users in making this change, the IDS has established a dedicated project team to plan the transition. They are committed to ensuring users move from the Secure Research Service to the IDS as smoothly as possible. Service teams will reduce any burden on users and will provide full guidance and support throughout the process.
ONS Secure Research Service users will be unaffected in the short term and should continue as they do at present while the strategic approach and timelines are finalised. The initial transition of users is expected to begin in early summer. The team at IDS will contact users with an active project in the Secure Research Service before the move to discuss the transition.
You can learn more about the Integrated Data Service by visiting the IDS website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request to sign up to their monthly newsletter.