New costs for 2021
In determining the new access fees, UK Biobank’s underlying approach to cost recovery remains unchanged. UK Biobank seeks to recover only the incremental costs of servicing an access application: it does not seek to recover the cost of development and management of the UK Biobank data resource, which already runs into hundreds of millions £GBP.
The rationale for this new fee structure is that:
- The three Tiers of fees are based broadly on the size of the respective datasets (and the respective costs of their distribution) and on UK Biobank’s analysis of common researcher usage of these datasets, as UK Biobank is keen to ensure that access to its Core level dataset remains at a cost level which is comparable to that under the old fee structure.
- The fee per collaborating institution is intended to cover the administrative costs of adding an institution to an application.
- The transition to a periodic charge – namely for an initial 3-year period, renewable for further periods – is to provide researchers with more flexibility, and reflects research practice and also takes into account the request of provision of updated and new data from UK Biobank.
These new Access Fees were introduced on 1st April 2021. Please see the summary transitional arrangements section below as an outline on how this introduction may impact upon a particular application or submission. Further announcements and guidance will follow in due course as to the detailed transitional arrangements and their implementation.
Revised fee structure
* These data will be made available in 2022 via the Research Analysis Platform at no additional cost (over and above the Tier 1 payment).
** The imaging data will be available for download with the Tier 3 payment: but at no additional cost over and above the Tier 2 payment via the Research Analysis Platform in 2022. Imaging derived phenotypes will be available as part of Tier 1.
*** Applications from Student Researchers must be for the sole purpose of performing a postgraduate student project (e.g. MSc or PhD or equivalent), submitted by the student or their supervisor.
UK Biobank’s MTA has been updated to reflect both the changes in application processes and procedures that UK Biobank has put in place to facilitate use of the data by researchers and the changes in prevailing legislation and regulatory guidance (particularly as regards data protection). The underlying arrangements in the MTA remain as before, namely that researchers are obliged to publish their findings and return their results to UK Biobank and the provisions governing IP rights are effectively unchanged.
The new MTA (along with revised Access Procedures) was introduced at the same time as the revised Access Fees in Q2 2021. As with the Access Fees, the general principle is that if nothing more is required, other than the items specified in the summary transitional arrangements below, in an existing research application (approved or submitted) then the existing MTA will continue to apply.
Our cloud based Research Analysis Platform will enable greater access to our data from early career researchers and those in low-middle income countries
UK Biobank has set out more details regarding these transitional arrangements. As above, UK Biobank’s approach is that if no substantive changes are required to an existing or already-submitted application then the research project should be able to continue under the existing fee and MTA structure.
It should be noted that for any research project that is ongoing (i.e., the completion date has not yet been reached), including those where the application has been submitted, then the following changes were initiated and/or permitted (at no additional cost):
- If the approved duration of a research project is under 3 years, it has been automatically extended to 3 years.
- If the approved duration of a research project is already 3 years, an extension of up to one year has been granted (on reasonable request) if the project is in the final year.
- Changes to the PI or for a reasonable extension/amendment of existing project scope has been permitted.
- Refreshes to existing datasets (for example health outcomes). Further, the additional data released in March 2021 can be included (on request) as part of an existing application
All other requested changes can be considered as part of the revised Fee and MTA structure. These include:
- duration or extension requests not falling within the above criteria;
- a request to add a further collaborating institution;
- additions of new previously unreleased datasets (such as the whole genome sequencing data or new assay data);
Research Access Platform and downloading
UK Biobank’s Research Access Platform – which is under development by DNAnexus and hosted on the AWS cloud – is scheduled to be operational for all UK Biobank researchers in Q4 2021.
As indicated in the footnotes to the table, certain data will only be made available via the platform (i.e., whole exome and whole genome sequencing data) and some other data will be made available at no additional cost via the platform (i.e. Tier 2 data with no further fee beyond the Tier 1 charge; imaging data with no further fee beyond the Tier 2 charge). The restrictions on download for some data are being introduced as a function of both the size of the larger datasets and the more complex (post-GDPR) regulatory regime which may apply to certain types of data, whether de-identified or not.