Skip to main content
Research Data Security

Research Data Security

Research Data Security team at work in SSRI team room

Our mission and charge

The Duke Research Data Security team supports the evolving computational and data needs of Duke faculty, staff and students using protected data in their research or academic capstone projects. (Protected data is data classified as Sensitive or Restricted by the Duke Data Classification Standard, and includes many types of identifiable or proprietary data, e.g., health records, internal business records, longitudinal studies, educational records, and data regulated by various laws and standards such as NIST 800-171, GDPR, or Export Controls.)

We assist researchers across the institution in developing project documentation and obtaining research approvals (including Data Use Agreements (DUAs), Data Management Plans (DMPs), and IRB protocols), to verify that the administrative and technical requirements of both the university and data providers are met. In order to receive support, projects in the PRDN must meet Duke requirements.  To work in the PRDN, researchers must have written approval to use or collect protected data. Data descriptions in each project approval must match. RDS will review approval documentation and work with researchers, data providers, and Duke offices to ensure compliance with Duke requirements before work can begin.

The team also manages and supports the technical environment (the Protected Research Data Network, or PRDN) to ensure that the security controls in place are sufficient, appropriate, and consistent, and to monitor for unauthorized activity. Researchers securely access and analyze their data in the PRDN. Our administrative and technical security controls are based on Duke’s Data Classification and University IT Security Office standards and can meet a variety of security requirements including those for HIPAA, export controls, and NIST 800-171. We regularly consult and coordinate with the Duke entities that are involved in research governance and institutional approvals to provide up-to-date guidance to those we support.

Data procurement

Duke classifies data into three categories: Sensitive, Restricted and Public. Access to Sensitive and Restricted data typically involves the execution of a Data Use Agreement (DUA), which is approved and submitted by Duke on behalf of the researcher to the data provider. When the DUA is fully executed, the data provider distributes the data under the terms of the agreement. For research involving human data, this process often goes hand in hand with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes for either he University or Duke Health.

The Protected Research Data Network (PRDN)

For data with Duke or data provider security requirements, the PRDN leverages the OIT infrastructure to provide flexible and secure computation and storage.

Administrative services

  • Assist with IRB proposals and data security plans.
  • Navigate the data procurement process (Data Management Plans, Data Use Agreements, Memoranda of Understanding, template documents, legal authorization).
  • Review Duke’s storage/security/usage options and determine which best satisfies the data security needs.
  • Implement computational and storage solutions for research projects in conjunction with OIT and ITSO.
  • Manage access and curation of certain Duke licensed data sets.
  • Provide audit support and liaison work with the data providing agencies or organizations.

Technical services within the PRDN

  • Implement and support controls to secure protected data.
  • Windows and Linux systems with a standard set of analytical software that is site-licensed by Duke (e.g. R, RStudio, Matlab, anaconda).
  • Custom storage directories to comply with data use agreements project team needs.
  • Friendly and knowledgeable end user support.

We have supported researchers and programs across the institution, including

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
Biodemography of Aging Research Unit (BARU)
Center on Health & Society (CHS)
Data +
Energy Initiative
Fuqua Master of Quantitative Management - Business Analytics
Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Law School
Master of Interdisciplinary Data Science
Political Science
Pratt School of Engineering
Psychology & Neuroscience
Research on the Education and Development of Youth (REDY)
Sanford School of Public Policy
Social Science Research Institute
Statistical Science

How do I begin?Duke Research Data Security

We are happy to work with you to find the right solutions for your data needs. To begin the process, please complete our Qualtrics survey.



Durham, NC 27708 | 919.681.6019


Gross Hall, 2nd Floor
140 Science Drive
Durham, NC 27708


Erwin Mill Building
2024 W. Main St.
Durham, NC 27705

Social Media

Follow @dukessri on twitter