The DARE UK Phase 1 Driver Projects reach midway point – what does progress look like?
The DARE UK Phase 1 Driver Projects were funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to inform the design of a UK-wide network of trusted research environments (TREs) – highly secure digital environments that provide access to sensitive data for analysis by accredited researchers. The Driver Projects, which set sail in February 2023, are exploring solutions for more standardised approaches to running and governing TREs so that data can be more easily analysed across TREs safely, securely and efficiently.
Halfway through their funding period, as of the start of June, the projects met with the DARE UK programme team and other key stakeholders for a mid-project showcase on 8 June 2023. At this face-to-face event at Wellcome Trust, London, the projects discussed their progress and outlook for the remainder of the delivery period.
Below is a summary of the progress of each of the projects. Click on the links for more information about the projects and their aims and slide decks with more detail about their progress.
SACRO: Semi-Automated Checking of Research Outputs
The SACRO project aims to deliver semi-automated tools for assessing the disclosure risk of research results, hence reducing delays in releasing them from Trusted Research Environments (TREs) and also the processing cost. It will also consolidate theory and practice to minimise inconsistent behaviour between TREs. The project is progressing well towards its objectives, having achieved several key milestones, including the delivery of core technical work packages, the creation of a taxonomy of output types, stakeholder-led engagements, and the establishment of an external steering group to ensure project relevance and foster broader engagement. The SACRO project has also established collaborations with other projects and a diverse range of TREs and will reach out to interested parties for further evaluation from July. The project is working to develop a consensus statement on AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation in disclosure risk assessment and will seek feedback and support from TREs, National Statistics Institutes, and regulatory bodies.
SATRE: Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments
The SATRE project aims to compare openly available UK TREs hosting health, manufacturing, commercial, science and humanities data and align them with a standardised TRE reference architecture (or structural template). The SATRE team has achieved notable progress, conducting a TRE feature survey with 105 responses, conducting regular collaboration cafés with over 40 consistent participants, and delivering a draft specification of the proposed reference architecture. The SATRE team will collaborate with the TRE community to further refine the specification and create a reference implementation. The SATRE project has also gained external recognition, with mentions in discussions with LifeBit and OMECU and a feature in an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) proposal led by the University of West England and an EU Horizon 2020 proposal led by the European Bioinformatics Institute. The project has also attracted trial requests from UK and New Zealand organisations.
TRE-FX: Delivering a federated network of trusted research environments to enable safe data analytics
The TRE-FX project aims to showcase the use of secure research objects to facilitate the secure movement of data between Trusted Research Environments (TREs) while adhering to the Five Safes principles for safeguarding sensitive data. By achieving this aim, researchers will safely conduct analyses across diverse data sources and sectors enabled by secure data sharing and analysis. The TRE-FX project has achieved significant milestones, including developing the TRE-FX platform infrastructure and integrations with analytic software vendor partners and collaborative partnerships, leading to external recognition and visibility. Other notable achievements include the co-development of the TREEHOOSE TRE with the SATRE project, Trusted Workflow Run Crate profile development, the development of a use case and successful testing of the architecture within a Trusted Research Environment and progress in the development of a comprehensive public submission layer that interacts with multiple TREs. Multistakeholder engagements (including other DARE UK projects) continue to refine the project’s activities.
TELEPORT: Connecting researchers to big data at light speed
The TELEPORT project aims to simplify and automate the data federation process, enabling researchers to analyse data stored in different Trusted Research Environments (TREs) across the UK while maintaining safety and security standards. The project has made significant progress in the design and development phase, successfully constructing the pop-up TRE structure and devising a replicable deployment method for the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC). The project has collaborated with SAIL IGRP and PHS PBPP to ensure adherence to information governance and access requirements. An exemplar governance application is being developed to test the system with real data by September/October, and integration efforts with TRE-FX and four-nation HDR UK driver programs are underway. TELEPORT has appointed James Healy as the Lay Lead to advocate for the public throughout the project’s technical meetings and engage with lay panels in Wales and Scotland.
SARA: Semi-Automated Risk Assessment of Data Provenance and Clinical Free-Text in TREs
The SARA project aims to enhance risk assessment and monitoring by developing semi-automated tools in two key areas: data provenance and privacy assessment. By improving the trustworthiness of data handling and minimising identifiable information in clinical free-text records, the project seeks to ensure compliance for research while actively involving the public in the process to address risks and maintain transparency. So far, the project has obtained data permissions, and initial analysis has been conducted to create synthetic reports. A consultant has been appointed to design a privacy risk dashboard, and interviews and co-design workshops have been completed for the data provenance prototype. The project has also achieved significant public involvement and engagement through various participation levels, including consultation, engagement, and co-design with partner organisations. The project has generated interest, leading to invitations to present at meetings and explore academic collaborations and participation in an EU Horizon application.