In parallel with the advances in big data-driven clinical research, the data safe haven concept has evolved over the last decade. It has led to the development of a framework to support the secure handling of health care information used for clinical research that balances compliance with legal and regulatory controls and ethical requirements while engaging with the public as a partner in its governance. We describe the evolution of 4 separately developed clinical research platforms into services throughout the United Kingdom-wide Farr Institute and their common deployment features in practice. The Farr Institute is a case study from which we propose a common definition of data safe havens as trusted platforms for clinical academic research. We use this common definition to discuss the challenges and dilemmas faced by the clinical academic research community, to help promote a consistent understanding of them and how they might best be handled in practice. We conclude by questioning whether the common definition represents a safe and trustworthy model for conducting clinical research that can stand the test of time and ongoing technical advances while paying heed to evolving public and professional concerns.
Keywords: clinical research support; data safe havens; genomics research support; health record linkage supported research; legislative and regulatory compliance; public engagement; public involvement; trusted research platforms; trusted researchers.