The ESRC’s Micro Safe Settings Network (MSSN) is a new service that will provide the facilities and support for researchers to remotely access sensitive data held by data centres across the UK.

The MSSN will comprise of:

  • a network of micro safe settings (known as SafePods) based within higher education institutions and other organisations across the UK
  • a dedicated website to provide information about the MSSN and book SafePods.
  • a CCTV service to enable data centres to view and monitor activity within a SafePod
  • a dedicated User Support Service to assist stakeholders with MSSN enquiries
  • an Advisory Board to plan and make decisions on the long term objectives of the MSSN.

SafePods will provide dedicated safe space for researchers to remotely access sensitive data for their research project purposes, which has been approved and made available by a data centre. SafePods will securely store the data centre’s hardware needed for the remote access session.

SafePods could also potentially be used for other confidential or data sensitive research work.

About the SafePod

The SafePod is a small prefabricated safe setting, which is likely to measure approximately 2.8m(w) x 3.5m(d) x 2.3m(h).  

The SafePod will include:

  • desk, chair, monitor and whiteboard
  • air ventilation system
  • adjustable lighting
  • CCTV system
  • panic alarm
  • connections for fire alarm
  • door access control system
  • secure storage for thin client and computer hardware
  • locker storage for researcher possessions.

SafePods will also be accessible for people with wheelchairs.

Organisations will need to consider that they can meet the various requirements to host a SafePod before making an application. These include a suitable location and the allocation of staff time to carry out the various roles needed to support the management and use of the SafePod. Full details are provided in the call documentation.

Data access

The MSSN will work closely with the Administrative Data Research Network to provide researchers with remote access to their data (for example - data that is currently only available from within an Administrative Data Research Centre safe setting).

The UK Data Service has also agreed in principle that the majority of their Secure Lab data holdings will be remotely available to researchers through a SafePod.

Over time, the MSSN will also engage with other key data centres and government departments across the UK to offer and support remote access to their administrative data.

Project data and researcher approval to use the MSSN will be governed by the individual data centres and is not the responsibility of the MSSN or the SafePod owning organisations.


On successful application an organisation will receive a grant award for the purchase of a SafePod.

The financial grant value for the purchase of each SafePod will cover the unit, hardware, furniture, delivery and installation. Also included are the service and maintenance costs for a SafePod for a five year period from installation.

Due to the size of the investment, the University of St Andrews will carry out the procurement process for the SafePods. Organisations will then purchase a SafePod directly from the chosen supplier, under a non-negotiable agreement for the manufacture, delivery and installation of the SafePod.  

How to apply

The call will be managed by the University of St Andrews. Further information on the application process and the requirements needed to host a SafePod(s) are available in the call documentation available to download below.

The initial expression of interest for a SafePod referred to in the call document must be returned no later than 27 October 2017.

Call document