Data project could revolutionise UK research
Published on 16 February 2023
A University of Dundee project could transform how sensitive research data is stored following a major funding award
Experts from Dundee’s School of Medicine – leading a UK-wide collaboration - have been awarded more than £600,000 to develop a new standardised data storage platform – known as trusted research environments (TRE) - to securely store data for research purposes.
The Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments (SATRE) project will attempt to homogenise the myriad of platforms currently used by the research community, improving security and increasing the efficacy of the data stored.
The development team at Dundee’s Health Informatics Centre will be supported by the Alan Turing Institute for the project, working further with organisations from the higher education and charity sectors, as well as industry. The team will also work with public partners to ensure engagement, involvement and transparency at all levels of the project.
“Accessing sensitive data in a safe and secure manner is critical to making advances in modern healthcare,” said Christian Cole, from Dundee’s Health Informatics Centre.
“However, at present there is no standard architecture for how this life-changing, or life-saving, material is stored. This diversity is hindering research of national relevance.
“Creating a standard architecture TRE for the research community would not only simplify how information is securely stored for data owners, but also provide a common platform for researchers to utilise it.
“This funding gives us the opportunity to provide a solution for UK research data providers. Doing so would transform how research is conducted in this country, and lead to even greater advancements in medical and patient care, as well as other important fields.
“None of this can happen without inclusion of the public voice and we will listen and be informed by our partners in developing this important infrastructure project.”
TREs are designed to enable access to sensitive data for only authorised projects and researchers, whilst minimising risk of data release or exposure through training, accreditation and secure computing infrastructure.
When sensitive data is made accessible for research, personal details are removed and the data 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 for public benefit.
The Dundee project is one of five awarded as part of the UK Research and Innovation DARE UK (Data and Analytics Research Environments UK) programme, with more than £2 million distributed to fund the Driver Projects.
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.”
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