NeIC BMS meeting the 2 July 2013 for secure storage and computation on sensitive data

Do you work with sensitive data? Your ideas for developing the area are much welcome!

The Bio- and Medical Sciences (BMS) represent the largest community of researchers in Europe, and have many common needs that are not fully met in the current e-infrastructures. For example, BMS research often needs to handle sensitive data collected from individuals, which has legal aspects with considerable technical ramifications. Access must be secure and highly controlled, but must allow approved reuse of data for the benefit of future research projects. Also, recent breakthroughs in experiment techniques have caused a super-exponential increase in BMS data production rates, increasing the need for specialized systems dedicated to secure storage and computation on this sensitive data.

Preparations have started

The Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC) BMS has initiated a collaboration with the Nordic nodes for ESFRI projects ELIXIR, BBMRI and Euro-Bioimaging in this area, and is currently starting up projects to deliver systems and services for use in this field. The activities are still in a very early phase, but a physical brainstorm meeting for technical and use case aspects is planned for the 2 July 2013 at the National Supercomputer Centre (NSC), Linköping, Sweden.

One type of sensitive data would be directly or indirectly identifiable data on individuals, like for example electronic patient records, personal genomes, or high-resolution bioimaging data. While this data is so sensitive that it is hard to envision any kind of data sharing across borders, or even between individual departments, a joint Nordic effort could speed up setting up duplicates of existing systems for national use in the individual countries.

Another type of sensitive data is anonymized research data from volunteers. This data can be shared, even across borders, subject to case-by-case data access committee review to ensure that the new use of the data conforms to the terms of sample acquisition that was once signed by the donors. Such sharing can be highly useful to researchers in the field, since it will enable them to find and use existing data sets to enable and strengthen their research. For example, it will be possible to achieve statistical significance in epidemiological studies of rare diseases, or to completely avoid having to acquire new samples and permissions in new studies, by reusing existing data from other sources.

These projects will ensure scalability by prioritizing cost-effective hardware and open standards, solutions and software, and will strive to keep the development of new functionality to a minimum. The system design is envisioned to involve technologies like iRODS, dCache, OpenSSL, LUKS, REMS, SAML2, OpenStack etc.


Interested parties who have activities in this area or could benefit from these services are encouraged to contact NeIC BMS Coordinator Joel Hedlund joel@nsc.liu.se, preferably before 2 July 2013.