May 3, 2023

Understanding the DARE UK federation proposal: The big picture and how the Driver Projects fit in

With the DARE UK Driver Projects well underway, there’s been an overlap of ideas for what an interoperable network of trusted research environments (TREs) should look like. In this blog, DARE UK Technical Lead Rob Baxter distinguishes the parts from the whole.

We recently published the first version of our “Federated Architecture Blueprint” for a network of trusted research environments (TREs) across the UK. At the same time, our Driver Projects are working on designs, blueprints, and prototypes for some of the different parts. We have a lot going on at once. So, what’s the story?

First off, a quick summary of our 2023 driver projects:

  • SARA and SACRO are working on tools for information governance professionals to support risk assessment for data coming into a TRE (SARA) or data potentially coming out (SACRO).
  • TRE-FX and TELEPORT are investigating technologies to connect TREs together, not least in scenarios where the data and the researcher are in different locations. Their work will support federated query (e.g., cases where the analysis needs to be taken to the data) and federated data (e.g., cases where the data needs to be taken to the analysis).
  • SATRE is exploring a common framework to harmonise the outputs of existing TRE architectures and establish a common reference for implementation.

While the five driver projects are working on their various innovations, the DARE UK core team is working on the overarching federated architecture blueprint (DARE UK Federation) to bring it all together.

Here’s the picture:

These are the key parts of the proposed DARE UK Federation – TREs, data providers and supporting services like discovery and indexing. In our architecture, these different components are safely connected “behind the scenes” using standard security services (SS) and a set of central registry services to keep track of what’s what. The Federation gives everyone a trustworthy way to exchange information and a standard way to “plug in” – and then, the rest is up to others to develop the best ways to support researchers working on their approved projects.

Hence our driver projects. Each project is investigating a different piece of the puzzle, and they all fit together into this big picture. Our job at DARE UK is to keep the big picture in mind and tweak it where we need to but keep out of the way of the many talented teams across the UK working on TREs to support excellent research.

The keen-eyed will have spotted that we don’t have driver projects looking at discovery or indexing. Indeed – but that’s another blog post!

We would like to hear from you

We are still gathering feedback on the initial draft of the DARE UK federated architecture blueprint. Whether you are a data and research expert or a member of the public interested in how sensitive data is managed, we want to hear from you. Your unique perspectives will help us improve this draft to ensure that it meets the needs of the data and research landscape and the wider community.

Please complete this survey until 26 May 2023 to share your thoughts with us.
If you prefer to provide feedback via email, please send your feedback to