Funding received to inform development of novel and innovative national data research infrastructure

DARE UK and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have announced the award of over £2 million to fund nine research teams to deliver a programme of Sprint Exemplar Projects.

The purpose of the projects is to uncover and test early thinking in the development of a more joined-up and trustworthy national data research infrastructure. This is to support cross-domain analysis of sensitive data at scale for public good. 

The Sprint Exemplar Projects will develop potential use cases, demonstrate the technology and explore best practice for the governance, ethical and public engagement and involvement aspects of developing a more coordinated data research infrastructure. Each of the projects crosses different research sectors and UKRI research council remits, and a PIONEER team led by Director Professor Elizabeth Sapey is one of the successful projects – “FED-NET: Creating the blueprint for a federated network of next generation, cross-council trusted research environments”.

FED-NET builds on the research team’s success in setting up and running PIONEER, the HDR UK data hub for acute care, providing a scalable solution to the technical and governance challenges of analysing datasets separated by geography and data language. Working with patients, the public, analysts and clinicians, the team has co-designed a secure way to combine sensitive health data with other data, working across five NHS hospitals. They have co-built a transparent governance process, ensuring data access is legal, with full public oversight.

This project will scale existing trusted research environments (TREs) – secure environments that enable large scale data analysis whilst protecting privacy – using ‘federated analytics’, where the data stays put and the analysis moves.

The project will test how different data languages can be translated into a common standard, focusing on data highly valued in research but rarely available, using a study of asthma. It will test governance solutions through workshops with both members of the public and experts.

The projects will all run for eight months from January to August 2022. The other funded projects include: 

  • TREEHOOSE: Investigating the use of trusted research environment enclaves for hosting open, original science exploration, led by researchers at the University of Dundee 
  • PRiAM: Exploring privacy risk assessment methodology, led by researchers at the University of Southampton 
  • STEADFAST: Education outcomes in young people with diabetes – innovative involvement and governance to support public trust, led by researchers at Cardiff University and Diabetes UK 
  • Creating a federated, cloud-based trusted research environment to facilitate collaborative research between existing institutions, led by researchers at the Francis Crick Institute
  • Overcoming technical and governance barriers to support innovation and interdisciplinary research in trusted research environments, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh
  • Multi-party trusted research environment federation: Establishing infrastructure for secure analysis across different clinical-genomic datasets
  • FAIR TREATMENT: Federated analytics and artificial intelligence research across trusted research environments for child and adolescent mental health, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge
  • GRAIMatter: Guidelines and resources for artificial intelligence model access from trusted research environments, led by researchers at the University of Dundee

For more information about each of the projects and what they are exploring, please visit the Sprint Exemplar Projects page. 

Hans-Erik G. Aronson, Director of DARE UK (Phase 1), said: “These nine ambitious Sprint Exemplar Projects form a vital element of the first phase of the DARE UK programme. They will provide crucial insights into how the UK’s data research infrastructure can work in a more joined-up and trustworthy way, to better meet the needs of researchers and wider society whilst maintaining the confidence of the public. I am hugely excited to track the progress of each of these important projects, and to see what their final outputs mean for future phases of DARE UK.” 

Justin O’Byrne, Co-Director of Digital Research Infrastructure at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “We are delighted to see these nine projects supported. They represent a key element of the DARE UK programme as well as the wider UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure ambitions. We look forward to seeing the ongoing outcomes from this Phase 1 work.” 

On Tuesday 8 February, 12-1:30pm, DARE UK will be holding a webinar as an opportunity for you to meet the Sprint Exemplar Project teams. At the event, which is open to all, you will learn more about what we hope will be achieved through the Sprints, and hear from each of the teams about their project. It is also an opportunity to ask DARE UK and the researchers any questions you may have. Find out more and register to attend.

DARE UK is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with Phase 1: Design and Dialogue being led bHealth Data Research UK (HDR UK) and Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK).

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