Safe Havens – enabling data driven outcomes

Ms Komathy Padmanabhan1, Dr Stevan Quenette1, Ms Anitha Kannan1, Mr Paul  Bonnington1

1 Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

2 Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

3 Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

4 Monash University, Clayton, Australia,


The value of Big Data collected through various studies lies not just in the data, but through appropriate data management, where the governance allows data to be analysed to generate insights & outcomes in a timely manner, without compromising on the ethics, privacy & IP of the data subjects and data custodians.

Outcomes can either be a major breakthrough discovery or a translatable method that has impact, like an integrated system utilising real-time monitoring & feedback loop using AI and Machine learning.

Democratisation of data becomes a challenge when the data is sensitive or protected, and sharing it inappropriately may lead to adverse impact that can either make the data subjects vulnerable or breach the IP/contracts/regulations.

Custodians of sensitive/protected data establish a data governance model for their data and require secure curated conduct for the data to be analysed by internal and external collaborators, without the data leaving the governed boundaries. Traditional data sharing techniques, like secure FTP, requires data to be completely de-identified and transferred to the analyst’s computer, and from that point, the data custodian loses control and oversight. Analysis on identifiable and re-identifiable data remains challenging or impossible outside the custodian’s premises.

Safe havens are secure data sharing and analysis environments, that enable identifiable and re-identifiable data to be made available to the researcher across geographic locations, without having to move the data physically, through secure remote access machines hosted within the custodian’s research infrastructure. Curated data ingress and egress to and from safe havens are within custodian governance and control, thus enabling the remote analysis of sensitive or protected data  within the stewardship of the data custodian.

This presentation will include:

  • Background on data safe havens
  1. Enabling a data custodian driven governance model
  2. Piloting for healthcare outcomes
  3. Future

What are Safe havens

Safe Havens can represent a whole range of capabilities – from research data catalogue management, data access management, data anonymisation and data linkage apart from the core secure data sharing & analysis platform.

The analysis environment itself, can be a custom virtual lab available for the collaborators of a particular repository, with a range of analysis tools, data handbook and the readonly copy of the actual data to be analysed. The Virtual Machines are secured with required policies to ensure appropriate access management, restricting data movement in/out of the machine and disabling  internet access. They are managed/governed instances with regular vulnerability scanning, penetration testing and firewall restrictions.

The augmenting capabilities like catalogue management, access request management, anonymisation and linking makes the whole Safe Haven suite of capabilities a one stop for data custodians to enable collaboration on their invaluable asset.

Enabling data custodian driven governance model

Safe havens are built on highly scalable and customisable architecture with tiered permission structure at various levels, which enables custodians to implement their governance policies within the Safe Haven, through processes and workflows. The Safe Havens can also be an effective vehicle to implement FAIR data principles through Metadata cataloguing capabilities

Piloting healthcare outcomes

Monash eResearch Centre has piloted implementing Safe Havens for a few  healthcare use cases and this presentation will cover the various flavors of safe havens that has been implemented, as outlined below

  • A lightweight Virtual Lab that provides data transfer capabilities and analysis tools
  • A multi component workflow enabled safe haven, that provides data cataloguing, access management and secure analysis environment
  • A comprehensive safe haven environment, leveraging international best practices & technologies, that provide a governed environment with a complete pre-installed software suite, access controls and permissions, secure remote access and data linkage.


Safe Havens are enabled through the secure IaaS capabilities within Monash eResearch Centre. The roadmap  is to achieve ISO 27001 accreditation for the Information security management practices for the underlying infrastructure, secure data hosting and sharing platforms. This will enable us to achieve commercial/industry grade secure platform and  proactively address any upcoming  regulatory requirements.

Unlocking the potential of huge set of data repositories that the Monash custodians and partners hold through data linking capabilities

Leverage the High Performance Computing capabilities  for near real time data processing, linking, anonymization, sharing and analysis to achieve healthcare and other high value outcomes


Komathy Padmanabhan is the Strategic Business Analyst at Monash eResearch Centre. Komathy has over 10 years of experience in leading Business improvements, business-technology alignment and strategic initiatives across various industries

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