Research Data Service

What is Data Safe Haven?

Overview of Data Safe Haven features and access requirements

The University of Edinburgh Data Safe Haven (DSH) is a controlled and secured service environment for undertaking research using sensitive data (confidential, personal or legal 'special categories' data, or data likely to cause harm if breached).


The DSH research facility provides robust controls and safeguards to enable the secure transfer of sensitive data into a highly secure environment where it can be stored, manipulated and analysed by approved members of a research team.

The DSH has been independently audited by Lloyd's Register and received ISO 27001 certification in December 2019. ISO 27001 is the international standard that lays out the specifications for implementing an ISMS (Information Security Management System). 

Why should I use it?

  • To access, and work with sensitive data that requires a high degree of security
  • To allow researchers to work together on a project involving sensitive data
  • To meet your data provider requirements to use a secure platform

The facility provides:

  • ISO 27001 accredited infrastructure and operational procedures to safeguard the security of sensitive data

  • Access restricted to authorised team members

  • Multi-factor authentication

  • End to end encryption

  • Secure deletion of data at the end of the project as required

  • General support, including help with importing data

  • Assistance with setting up and monitoring 'gatekeeping' procedures for ensuring safe data exit

Technical specifications:

Each research project has a server space built specifically to its requirements, accessed through a virtual desktop environment.  Our environment builds are highly flexible and we can provide you with a standard environment or one customised to your project needs in any operating system. In addition to the specifications of the standard build, environments can be provided with an alternative OS (Linux) and additional users, software, processing capacity, and storage can be allocated by agreement.

A  standard environment build provides:

  • Windows 10 OS with Microsoft Office 2016 Suite
  • Up to 5 TB storage
  • Each user has access to 2 processing cores (4GB RAM total)
  • Access for up to 5 registered users with 2 concurrent users
  • Key data analysis tools and packages (e.g. SPSS, MatLab, R) are provided by default 

Who can use the service?

  • University of Edinburgh staff
  • University of Edinburgh postgraduate students associated with a research project
  • Collaborators (visitors) associated with a University research project with a University login 
  • All users must be located on the University network

Cost recovery

  • There is an annual charge for a standard DSH environment (the standard rate includes a non-commercial research discount).
  • Additional costs may be added for anything not included in the standard build.
  • DSH, funded by the University's Digital Research Services programme, operates on a cost recovery basis.
  • As most funders allow research data management costs for sensitive data, researchers should include the cost in grant applications.
  • Contact the DSH team as early as possible for your project cost estimates.

We can set up a demo environment for researchers on request to explore the use of the DSH for their projects. If you have a query, please contact the Research Data Support team at

DSH documentation

Please see our Overview for Users document for detailed information on the DSH.

Further information