The Dementias Platform UK Data Portal brings together data from two million people who take part in medical research. Built to an international information security standard, the Data Portal ensures that every participant's data is stored securely whilst also enabling bona fide researchers to access the information they need to advance our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's.
The need for secure data access
People who volunteer as participants in medical research want to know that their data is held with security and care. The organisations who work with them hold their sensitive data, and want to ensure that it is protected at all times – it is essential that sensitive data is not physically moved from one place to another, as this involves risk.
At the same time, it is important that bona fide researchers can easily access the data they need in order to conduct research quickly and effectively. Those who have given their time and information to long-term studies are keen for this to happen too, as they have often done so with the advancement of medical research in mind.
The DPUK Data Portal
DPUK’s solution is to manage secure remote access through its Data Portal. Some of the features of its security are as follows:
- It is part of the UK Secure eResearch Platform (UKSeRP) based at Swansea University. UKSeRP conforms to the ISO: 27001 ‘kite mark,’ a standard for information security. It is pan-government accredited and approved by NHS Digital to host data.
- Data is anonymised. UKSeRP uses international best practice to de-identify people’s data.
- The Data Portal provides access to data using a virtual desktop infrastructure – meaning that there is no physical transfer of data to researchers, though it is accessible worldwide.
- The virtual desktop is opened and accessed in VMware using two-factor authentication. This is an extra step of security to ensure only users with permitted accounts are able to connect to the infrastructure hosting cohort data.
- Raw data files provided are not permitted to be removed from the remote desktop, ensuring that data ownership remains with the organisation – such as those running the population study, or the data provider – at all times. Results, outputs and derived data are permitted to be removed for peer review and publishing.
Researchers can learn more about the Data Portal's virtual desktop infrastructure on the Data Portal website.
We know how important data security is. If you wish to find out more, or ask further questions about how we keep sensitive data secure, we would be happy to provide further information. Please visit our contact page to get in touch.