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Data News

Secure Labs Reopening and Remote Data Service - 7th Sept 2020

It has been a very interesting few months, with many of our working practices changing, with both positive and negative changes. I am very happy to announce that our secure labs in London and Liverpool are now re-open, with Covid safe rules to allow users safe access to the labs. We will be in touch with lab users, do please contact us if you have any questions.

As one of the Economic and Social Research Council’s data infrastructure investments, CDRC was asked to join a recent meeting discussing how we have been able to respond to COVID-19, both in terms of what our research has been used for, and how we have pivoted to provide more services online. We have had to adapt to and change how we work, often on a relatively short timescale, but hopefully for a better experience overall.

New Remote Secure Data Facilities

One of our main developments which is being rolled out is secure, remote access to some of our Secure data sets. Making data available through UCL’s Data Safe Haven allows us to provide access to some of our secure data sets which were previously only available within our secure labs, requiring a physical visit to London or Liverpool. We have had to renegotiate our data licensing agreements with our data partners to enable this, so currently only some secure datasets are available using this method.

Data Safe Haven is an ISO 27001 accredited facility, with 2 factor authentication ensuring that only those who are allowed to access the data can. We have also implemented our standard secure data output checking, ensuring that any outputs from the lab are secure and non-disclosing.

Remote Working

All of our staff are now working from home which has required us to update our working practices. Both UCL and University of Liverpool have now adopted Microsoft Teams, and working within the Teams framework has allowed us to simplify and rationalised our collaboration, scheduling and document management processes. We must always remember the variety of people’s opinions, with some of our staff very keen on home working, and some very keen to get back to the office as soon as possible. With many of our staff in London, space at home is often at a premium, particularly for a full time home office, which many of us never envisaged before.

One change this has precipitated is a move to electronic signatures for signing user agreements. Spearheaded by UCL Legal, we are now able to accept electronic signatures (using Adobe’s DocuSign process) on our user agreements, removing the need to print, physically sign and scan documents.

The last six months have brought new ways of working, and new approaches to all of our lives – who would have thought that everyone wearing face coverings would become accepted in everyday life? We will continue to keep you up to date with developments with our Secure Labs and new remote secure data technologies.

Remote Training

We have also been able to move all of our training provision online, with a number of courses run through Zoom recently to enable online delivery. We are also in the process of developing two new courses (Advanced GIS Methods Training: AHAH and Multi-Dimensional Indices and Advanced GIS Training Methods: IUC and K-means Clustering) which will be delivered online in the autumn. Check out the links for more details. Whilst online training is not the same as in person training, it does have the advantages of not requiring travel, and overnight stays, which is a bit positive to many people.

We will continue to provide updates to how our service changes and develops. If you would like to use our data, or if you have any questions, please do get in touch via at nick.bearman@ucl.ac.uk or info@cdrc.ac.uk.

Written by Dr Nick Bearman, Data Services Manager.

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Home Working and Horizon Scanning - 2nd April 2020

Work has been transformed by the coronavirus crisis with remote working now the norm for millions of workers. But distance from the office is also providing some opportunities to take a wider perspective of the data landscape and to scan business horizons using data sources that we might have overlooked or never investigated in detail.

The CDRC Data Store remains open for business, and our Open and Safeguarded data products are available as normal. Our Secure labs are closed for the duration of the crisis, but we are still accepting Secure data applications for access when things return to normal.

For students, our Masters Dissertation Scheme is still running with a record number of projects for students to complete in the coming months using business and CDRC data. The scheme gives Masters students registered at any UK university a unique opportunity to engage with horizon scanning or other business problems using novel datasets and interesting business perspectives on applied problem-solving. In the past, many participating students have carried out work at the businesses office, but this year students are being offered opportunities to work with businesses through homeworking for the duration of the crisis. The Scheme still brings together the best of academic and business perspectives upon applied problem-solving. Academic supervisors similarly gain the opportunity to collaborate on potentially high impact research with the business community.

So… if you are a Master’s student interested in collaborating with business, but can no longer do this through fieldwork or primary data collection, why not click here to see if any of the CDRC projects interest you? A number of the organisations that we work with are very keen to use part of their homeworking to coach students in the workings of business, especially if you have relevant skills and ways of working to offer!

We also have the CDRC Data Store which has a wide range of data sets available, some of which may be very useful in your dissertation or current research.

Written by Dr Nick Bearman, Data Services Manager.