Changing the way UK Biobank data is made available to researchers around the world Pinned Featured

Huma B Communications Team The helpers that keep the community running smoothly. UKB Community team

From today, all data for new projects and additional data for existing projects will be available solely (with limited exceptions) on UK Biobank’s cloud-based Research Analysis Platform (UKB-RAP). You can continue to analyse the UK Biobank data that you’ve already downloaded to your own secure environment (but will only be able to update the data within the UKB-RAP) until the end of your approved project (when the data that you’ve downloaded will need to be deleted).
 

The scale and complexity of the UK Biobank data are increasing rapidly, and there is a need to streamline access to updated data for the large numbers of research users globally. It is also important for us to have more secure control over access to, and storage of, the participants’ confidential data (including detailed information about their health). Consequently, we have decided this is the right time to migrate away from the data-download model that has been used since the UK Biobank data were first made available to researchers in 2012.
 

We launched the UKB-RAP in 2021 to cope with the increasing scale of the data, and to provide greater security and control than can be assured with downloaded data. For these reasons, it is already the only means of access to genomic sequence data for the global research community. At present, about one-third of active projects are being conducted solely on the UKB-RAP, and its functionality is being continually enhanced to support an ever-widening range of research.

As well as providing immediate access to the most recent version of the UK Biobank data, the UKB-RAP has a number of features that can facilitate research:

  • User manuals and webinars, as well as the UK Biobank Community which allows researchers to seek advice from each other and us, and also to propose improvements to the UKB-RAP;
  • Private work-spaces in which collaborators on a project can work effectively together, with access to compute power and data storage (as and when required) at competitive prices;
  • Many of the most widely used data management and analysis tools, along with the ability for researchers to add their own tools (as well as their own data for combined analyses).

We remain committed to providing straightforward and equitable access to the UK Biobank data for all approved researchers everywhere in the world in a way that allows them to conduct their research as effectively as possible. In order to help smooth this transition to all analyses being conducted on the UKB-RAP, we’re taking the following steps:  

  • UK Biobank’s data will not be updated until Q4 2024, so that all existing and newly approved projects will have equal access to exactly the same data during this transition phase;
  • On-boarding training will be introduced, with hosted virtual sessions about how to use the UKB-RAP effectively, supported by detailed documentation and online tutorial materials;

Data compute and storage credits that are currently available to early career and lower-income country researchers will be extended to all researchers who need such support.

Throughout this transition to more and more researchers using the UKB-RAP for their research, we would welcome feedback as to how it could be improved (as has been occurring since it was first launched), as well as about any issues that you may have with using it.
 

We recognise that there may be certain circumstances that make it difficult to conduct research on the UKB-RAP. In such cases, please contact us so that we can explore how to address these obstacles or, in exceptional cases, seek a download exemption from the Access Committee.
 

You can find information about the UKB-RAP and answers to questions that you may have here, but please contact the Access Team (access@ukbiobank.ac.uk) or Submit a Request if you have other questions. We do understand that this is a substantial change in the way in which you will be able to access the UK Biobank data, and would be grateful for your help with making this transition.

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