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Importing and exporting files using the Airlock

Genomics England takes data security, and our promise of confidentiality to our participants and patients very seriously. Our Secure Research Environment (RE) should be viewed as a reading library rather than a lending library – nothing can be removed without permission, this is in line with the consent model signed by participants.

To keep our participants safe, we restrict the data you can export from our Research Environment. We do this using our Airlock, a process where we check through any data you want to export to ensure that none of our participants can be identified from it.

NO exportation can be carried out via transcription or screenshotting or screen sharing from the RE

Within these documents you will find:

Why the Airlock is in place

Our participants, the people who have donated their genomes and medical records to our Research Environments, are our most important asset. You can only do research on these data because the participants allow us to share the data with you. They allow us to do this because they trust us, and by extension you, to keep their identities safe.

Participants have given consent for Genomic England to use their data stating:

‘…although researchers can look at your data and ask questions about it, they can only take away the answers to their questions (their results). They can’t copy or take away any of your individual data’

For this reason, Genomics England does not allow the re-identification of any participant outside the Research Environment – either from the material alone, or through aggregation with other data available now or in the future. The Airlock systems and processes are therefore designed to prevent identifiable data being released from the Research Environment without the consent of the individual concerned.

The reading library

You can imagine the Genomics England Research Environment (RE) like a reading library – the data there is to look at but not to take away. You must carry out all your analysis within the Research Environment and the only data you can export are analytical results.

By adopting this approach to data security we can allow you to access a richer dataset than would otherwise be possible. Furthermore, as new datasets become available and the longitudinal datasets expand, there is no need for you to continually reapply for access. We can also use the Airlock to protect data that belongs to other data providers, who have agreements with Genomics England.

The only data that should leave the RE are the end results of analysis. We will generally not allow raw data to be exported, although in exceptional cases where the work cannot feasibly be done inside the RE, we may grant this if the request is accompanied by a full explanation of why.

The Airlock enables material (data, files, tools etc) to be moved in or out of the RE in a controlled and supervised manner; facilitating research and discovery, while maintaining control of security and access.


The File Transfer/Airlock application is the method for moving files and data through the Airlock.

Please submit a ticket to the Genomics England Service Desk if you require any further assistance.

Clinical care data

If you require data for clinical care, this is not covered by the Airlock. The Airlock applies specifically to the data for research found in the RE.

How to use the Airlock tool to import and export files

To import and export files, you will need to use the Airlock/File Transfer tool. You will find details of this tool and how to access the system in this document.

What you can and can't export

Overall, you can export data that is non-identifiable and is the results of your data analysis. For details of what this actually means, see this document.

Case studies

If you are working on a case study or an analysis with a very small number of participants, please read this document for more details on exporting the results.

How we process your application to import and export data

Your application will be considered by the Airlock Committee, who will determine if the data you want to request is non-identifiable and if it matches the research project you have been approved to do. You can learn more in this document.