What is data research infrastructure?
Data research infrastructure is the systems and processes in place to support research and analysis using sensitive data. It includes physical systems, such as the data centres where the data itself is held; computer software that researchers use to analyse data; governance processes, such as those guiding who is able to access what data and for what purposes; and the people who run the systems and do the research. It is everything that makes data research happen.
Why was DARE UK established?
Data has the power to improve lives, and has been fundamental to the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial that the different components of the UK’s data research infrastructure work in a joined-up, impactful and trustworthy way, to support research at scale for public benefit. They need to be able to support fast and efficient sharing, linkage and advanced analysis of sensitive data in an ethical and secure manner, whilst maintaining the confidence – and meeting the needs of – researchers, data controllers and the public.
DARE UK has therefore been established to design and deliver a novel and innovative data research infrastructure for the UK, with a specific focus on supporting cross-domain linkage and analysis of sensitive data. The scope includes all types of sensitive data relating to people, including data about education, health, the environment, welfare and much more. The programme is one of a number of initiatives funded by UKRI – the UK’s largest public funder of research and innovation – as part of the Digital Research Infrastructure programme.
What does DARE UK aim to achieve?
DARE UK aims to:
- Design and deliver a novel and innovative UK-wide data research infrastructure that is coordinated, demonstrates trustworthiness and supports research at scale for public good.
- Establish the next generation of trusted research environments (TREs) that will enable fast, safe and efficient sharing, linkage and advanced analysis of data, where it is legal and ethical to do so.
- Enable UK researchers and innovators to securely and efficiently harness the full power of linked datasets, modern digital platforms, tools, techniques and skills.
- Enable research and analysis on a broad range of potentially sensitive data from across the UK research and innovation spectrum.
The scope of DARE UK includes all research conducted by UKRI research councils that uses, or anticipates use of, sensitive data from different research disciplines and from across different sectors. The DARE UK programme is being designed in an open and inclusive manner, with involvement from researchers, technologists and the public embedded throughout.
Public trust at the heart
We are committed to meaningful public involvement and engagement. Public involvement and engagement is embedded throughout the DARE UK programme to inform our planning and delivery and make sure we are working in a trustworthy way.
Phase 1: Design and Dialogue (July 2021 – March 2024)
Phase 2: Build, Test and Establish (timelines TBC)
Phase 3: Deliver, Optimise and Federate (timelines TBC)
DARE UK Phase 1, July 2021 - March 2024
Phase 1 of the DARE UK programme is an extensive listening exercise.
The goal is to understand, through open dialogue with stakeholders – including researchers, technologists, the public and others – what’s needed to enable more efficient, coordinated and trustworthy data research across the UK. By exploring stakeholder experiences and challenges from existing infrastructure, we will ensure that subsequent phases of DARE UK address the needs of the UK in making the best use of data at scale for public benefit.
- An initial Landscape Review of existing data research infrastructure across the UK was carried out and published in autumn 2021. This involved a comprehensive series of interviews and workshops with over 150 technologists, researchers and others to better understand their experiences and needs.
- In 2022, a programme of Sprint Exemplar Projects uncovered and tested early thinking around use cases and the governance, ethics and technical feasibility required to deliver a UK-wide data and analytics research infrastructure.
- Meanwhile, a series of workshops with researchers, technologists and others, and a UK-wide Public Dialogue, explored views regarding what a coordinated national data research infrastructure should look like.
- In August 2022, the findings and recommendations to emerge from engagement with stakeholders during the first year of DARE UK Phase 1 were published.
- From February to October 2023, UK Research and Innovation is funding a programme of Driver Projects to lay the foundations for a coordinated and trustworthy national data research infrastructure.
- In April 2023, the DARE UK Community Groups were launched to promote community-led initiatives and innovations that align with the programme’s vision.
The DARE UK Delivery Team is now taking forward some of the more immediate recommendations to emerge from the first year of the programme, alongside further scoping and refining longer-term recommendations. This is happening in continued collaboration with stakeholders from across the sensitive data research landscape and the public. The findings of DARE UK Phase 1 will inform and shape the future of the programme.