Facilitating Sensitive Data Requests

SenDA is a workflow tool designed to make it easier to create, review, track, and action requests for access to sensitive unit-record level data. It allows users to explore a catalogue of available data and select a desired subset that is relevant, then request access to that data. Requests, once granted by data curators, invoke auditable data extraction and delivery of sensitive unit record data into a secure environment for analysis by authorised users.

SenDA is designed to replace parts of the existing, largely offline or email-based, workflow for obtaining sensitive granular data for research or analysis, with the ultimate goal of reducing the time and effort required to obtain access to such data.

SenDA allows requesters to create and update fine-grained requests for data, curators to approve or reject them, and both to engage in dialogue throughout, allowing them to move iteratively towards a successful request that satisfies both parties. It does so whilst capturing everything and putting it in a single place where it can be easily tracked and audited, providing certainty and accountability to both data curators and those requesting data.

By putting workflows online and making them centrally auditable, automating what can be automated, but keeping the human in the loop for key decision points, SenDA offers a solution for managing access to sensitive datasets that improves efficiency whilst preserving confidentiality and effective data governance.

Features and benefits

One-Stop Shop for Data Requests

SenDA provides a simple web-based user interface to allow requesters and curators to enter, discuss, approve/reject and track requests for access to sensitive unit record data. It uses an intuitive ‘shopping cart’ approach, making it simple for users to select only the data components they need for analysis, then ‘check out’ to submit a data extraction request.

Accountability and audit trail

SenDA records each request and its status, providing an audit trail for every request. All actions are logged, including creating, updating or commenting on requests, adding or updating users, and adding or updating projects, and requests remain in the system, visible to curators, even after being resolved. This provides a permanent record of the decisions that were made, and steps taken, that affect how data was disseminated, and provide a single point of reference and control.

Semi-automated data delivery

SenDA automates some of the key steps required to deliver data in response to an approved request, but keeps humans in the loop at key steps for increased security. Approved requests for data are encoded as a Data Extraction Request (DER) and loaded manually into the target secure computing environment, where they are then processed by a Data Extraction Tool (DET) to generate the relevant extract.

Standards-based metadata

SenDA connects to a metadata registry to import a catalogue of available data, so that clients can continue to use their preferred tool for development and governance of metadata. Expecting a metadata source that complies with the ISO/IEC 11179 international standard for metadata registries removes uncertainty and allows data custodians to leverage the existing standards compliant metadata registries, including applications such as METeOR and Aristotle.

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