January 25, 2024

Director of DARE UK announces he is leaving

With the successful completion of the first stage of the DARE UK programme, Director Hans-Erik Aronson has announced his intention to move on.

Hans-Erik Aronson is stepping down as Director of DARE UK (Data and Analytics Research Environments UK) as it reaches the end of its first phase.

DARE UK was set up to design and deliver trustworthy national data research infrastructure to support cross-domain research for public good.

Hans-Erik joined Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) in 2021 from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA to lead the new project. During its first 2 ½ years, the programme has engaged researchers, technologists and the public in developing plans for what data research infrastructure should look like in the future. Plans are currently being finalised for the ambitious next stage of the project.

Hans-Erik feels the end of Phase 1b marks an inflection point in the programme and has decided it is the right time to pursue new challenges.

Hans-Erik says: “I had the incredible honour of serving as Director of DARE UK to define the programme through strong community engagement and close collaboration with a multitude of UK-wide stakeholders. The programme has come a long way, and I am proud of the progress we have made, building it from the ground up into a programme with strong recognition and appreciation in the UK and increasingly internationally. DARE UK’s distinctive contribution will be to accelerate the use of emerging technologies within an interoperable network of trusted research environments to transform the safe and secure use of sensitive data for research.”

Emily Jefferson will take on the role of Interim Director of DARE UK in addition to her role as Chief Technology Officer at HDR UK until new leadership is in place for the second phase of the programme.

Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK, says: “DARE UK is a significant project for the UK, and Hans-Erik has led the programme for the past 2 ½ years through its important initial phase. Under his leadership, the team has made real progress in that time. I want to thank him for all his hard work and wish him the best in his future endeavours.

Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, says: “The default model for researchers to access ever-increasing amounts of sensitive data for public good research is now through Trusted Research Environments (TRE) based on the principles of the five safes. Whilst this model has proved invaluable, it risks research being conducted in ever-more secure data silos. The first phase of DARE UK has allowed us to consider how this might be avoided, using technology to assist us whilst maintaining the five safes principles. I thank Hans-Erik for his great leadership in bringing researchers, data owners, TRE providers and members of the public together throughout phase 1 to where the programme is today.

HDR UK oversees the DARE UK programme along with Administrative Data Research UK on behalf of the funders, UK Research & Innovation.

DARE UK has been established to tackle the infrastructure challenges in enabling the secure use of sensitive data in research for public benefit. Its scope includes all types of sensitive data relating to people, including data about education, health, the environment, welfare and more. DARE UK’s initial “Design and Dialogue” phase has led a conversation with various communities on how best this might be done.

It has run projects to develop some of the essential standards and best practice guidance that are needed, as well as projects to build prototypes for some of the components that will be needed in infrastructure for sensitive data analysis at a large scale. All of these have involved public involvement and engagement to shape the projects and outcomes.

Several of the outputs of the projects are being trialled and deployed by various research platforms in the UK.