A data use register (also known as a data release register or list of approved projects) offers the public a clear record of how their data is being used, by whom and most importantly for what purpose. The April 2021 report ‘Putting Good into Practice’ by the National Data Guardian and Understanding Patient Data highlighted that ‘transparency is required throughout the whole data life cycle, not just at the point of application’. National bodies also have a legal obligation to make this information publicly available.  Publishing this information in an accessible and understandable format helps organisations demonstrate trustworthiness and, we hope, increase advocacy for data use.

By establishing a core set of information on whom, how and why data is accessed, we hope to demonstrate the value and benefit of using health data, develop a culture of openness amongst data custodians and researchers, and generate better insight into health data usage.

Progress to date  

Widespread community involvement and engagement

The Alliance has hosted a series of workshops, focus groups, interviews and surveys with data custodians, researchers, funders, policy makers and members of the public.  Over 100 representatives from nearly 50 organisations have been consulted and contributed to recommendations for a data use register standard.

Publication of White Paper for recommendations on a data use register standard 

In January 2022, the Alliance published a White Paper, outlining recommendations for a data use register standard. These recommendations build on a previous Green Paper, presenting a minimum standard for data use registers. The development of this standard was driven by the generous input from many communities, including custodians, researchers, funders, policy makers and most notably the public. With publication of this paper, we hope to improve transparency of how data is used for research across the UK.

The Gateway data use register: an implementation of the standard, via the Innovation Gateway.

Health Data Research UK is offering data custodians an opportunity to meet the principles of transparency, as outlined in the Alliance Letter of Intent. By using the Gateway data use register, custodians will improve transparency of data uses approved for datasets published on the Innovation Gateway, a portal for data discovery and access.  HDR UK has developed the Gateway data use register as an implementation of the Data use register standard, to provide a best practice example of how information of approved data uses is shared and managed.

What is the benefit of using this register? 

  • Automated process: Data custodians who use the Gateway data access management system will benefit from automated data uses, with information pulled from approved data access requests. This reduces the need for admin and providing the public with real time data.
  • Alignment to Five Safes Framework: To better demonstrate that access is granted to appropriately qualified individuals in secure settings, and for purposes that benefit the public, the content and structure of individual data uses has been aligned to the Fives Safes framework.
  • Closing the loop on impact: By providing a clear link between data use and research outputs we can better demonstrate the impact and value of data use.

To learn more about this feature, watch a recording of the Gateway data use register demo here

Consultation on Green Paper for data use register standards 

In July 2021, the Alliance set out draft recommendations for a data use register standard, which went out for consultation via an online survey. These recommendations have received widespread support with 93% of respondents endorsing them in the Community response to the Green Paper. The high level of interest and input from lay representatives highlights the need for transparency and the importance of involving the public in all stages of the data-driven research cycle.

Analysis of data use registers published by health data custodians in the UK

Our research on the current state of data use registers has provided valuable insight into the practices of data controllers and custodians with established data use registers. Forty-six data custodians and controllers from the Alliance and seven non-Alliance members were included in this review. For more details on the results of this analysis, please read the preprint published in May 2021.   You can also find links to organisational Data Use Registers here.

Related resources

If you are interested in this work and would like to be involved, please email

Organisations contributing to development of recommendations and consultation 

Anglia Ruskin University Imperial College London Public Health Scotland
Beat Kidney Stones Imperial College London Neonatal Data Analysis Unit QResearch
BHF Data Science Centre Independent / HDR-UK / Genomics England Queen Mary University
Bristol University Institute of Cancer Research Roche
Cancer Research UK King’s College London SAIL Databank
Cardiff University Lancaster University SPNFT
City, University of London London Hazards Centre St. Bartholomew’s Hospital
Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) MedConfidential The Brain Tumour Charity
DATA-Can Health Data Research Hub Medical Research Council The Renal Registry
Edinburgh University Moorfields NHS FT UCL and Ixico plc
Flat Iron MRC CTU at UCL University College London
Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust NHS Digital University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust
Gut Reaction Health Data Research Hub NHSX University of Dundee
Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust NIHR BioResource University of Nottingham
HDR UK Cambridge Understanding Causes of Disease NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum (NICRCF) University of South Wales
Health and Social Care Northern Ireland Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust University of St Andrew
Health Research Authority Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust University of Warwick
HIC – The University of Dundee Our Future Health use MY data
HQIP Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority Patient & Public Involvement Panel Wellcome Sanger Institute
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust Public Health England