February 15, 2023

Five projects funded to drive more coordinated secure use of sensitive data for research across the UK

Over £2 million has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation – the UK’s largest public funder of research – to fund a series of Driver Projects as part of the DARE UK (Data and Analytics Research Environments UK) programme.

The projects will take a leading role in informing the design of what will be a UK-wide network of trusted research environments (TREs) – highly secure digital environments that provide access to sensitive data for analysis by accredited researchers. This is to support cross-domain data research for public good – for example, research about education, health, the environment and more, and how these different aspects of our lives interact with each other.

When sensitive data is made accessible for research, it is de-identified (all personal identifiable information is removed) and held in TREs, which have a series of strict security measures to prevent re-identification and protect against data misuse. This enables researchers to securely analyse the data as part of important projects in the public good.

Currently, different TREs across the UK follow different standards and processes, making it difficult for researchers to conduct analysis on multiple datasets held across different TREs. The five Driver Projects will explore solutions to developing more standardised approaches to running and governing TREs, so that data can be more easily analysed across them in a safe, secure and efficient way.

Hans-Erik G. Aronson, Director of DARE UK Phase 1, said:The five field-advancing Driver Projects will inform the direction of DARE UK’s mission to deliver a UK-wide network of interoperable trusted research environments (TREs) for research on sensitive data.

“The projects are focused on foundational aspects required to create a more coordinated and trustworthy data research infrastructure to accelerate discovery by safely streamlining the work of researchers while maintaining the public’s confidence. I look forward to following the progress of these exceptional teams as they deliver vital insights to inform DARE UK’s design ambition.

Dr Justin O’Byrne, Acting Co-Director of UKRI’s Digital Research Infrastructure, said: “The UK’s digital research infrastructure underpins vast swathes of the research and innovation ecosystem. Through DARE UK, UKRI’s vision for a seamless and connected secure digital environment is one step closer.

“The Driver Projects, supported by our £2 million investment, demonstrate the breadth of thinking needed to not only harmonise existing technology of trusted research environments (TREs) but also harmonise the policy and governance approaches needed to maintain public trust in research using sensitive data.”

Each of the Driver Projects will run for nine months from February to October 2023, and their outputs will be shared publicly via the DARE UK website in late 2023. The five funded projects include:

  • SATRE: Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments, led by researchers at the University of Dundee
  • TRE-FX: Delivering a federated network of TREs to enable safe data analytics, led by researchers at the University of Manchester
  • TELEPORT: Connecting researchers to big data at light speed, led by researchers at the University of Swansea
  • SARA: Semi-Automated Risk Assessment of Data Provenance and Clinical Free-text in TREs, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh
  • SACRO: Semi-Automated Checking of Research Outputs, led by researchers at the University of the West of England

To find out more about each of the funded projects and what they hope to achieve, please visit the Driver Projects page.

Meet the Driver Project teams

Join our webinar on Wednesday 8 March, 12:00-13:00, to find out more about the five Driver Projects and what they aim to achieve, directly from the research teams. It is also an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the projects, and find out how you can get involved. The event is free and open to everybody.

Register to attend

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