The ACCORD Cyberinstrument
SIMPLY PUT: Today, only a handful of universities in Virginia are capable of handling HIPAA data. Therefore, should research opportunities arise that involve health information, researchers at universities without HIPAA-compliant infrastructure have to either decline or severely limit their participation in order to not break the law. This problem is exacerbated at under-resourced, minority-serving, and non-PhD granting institutions. ACCORD is built as the first compliant-capable community cyberinfrastructure for handling highly sensitive research data.
Federation: the heart of ACCORD innovation
Compliance is a complex institutional process. In short, whether a researcher is deemed compliant with applicable laws and regulations is a decision made solely by his/her institution. Therefore, in order to scale services, ACCORD federates access to its system. Instead of working with researchers creating individual guest accounts on ACCORD, the University of Virginia will enter into a contract agreement with the partner institutions. Researchers can then access and use ACCORD through their institution's process, using local credentials. The federated model allows partner institutions to manage their own identity and access control, and therefore, can verify and certify their own compliance with high confidence; concurrently, ACCORD is relieved of the risk and responsibility for identity and access management; and ultimately, the researcher application process and workflow is significantly less burdensome.
To streamline the federated access model, each partner institution designates an ACCORD liaison to support user design, configure, and test their containerized ACCORD environment. The liaison will also facilitate the institutional compliance approval process.
ACCORD is designed to help researchers store, access, and analyze research data in compliance with their Data Usage Agreement. ACCORD can provision computer infrastructures compliant with HIPAA, FISMA-CUI, and baseline security requirements. ACCORD also provides necessary documentation for institutional compliance auditing.
ACCORD provides both secured storage and compute resources to users in containerized packages. Software tools, such as Malab and Jupyter Hub, are also available. Depending on available resources, access to ACCORD is free for Virginia researchers. For large projects, condo resource hosting is also possible.
Researchers at partner universities can access and use ACCORD resources remotely via secured online interface and data transfer protocol; workflows are set up to integrate with their institution's processes; and documentation are verified at every job instance. An ACCORD liaison is available at each partner institution to onboard and support users.