Research Data Scotland's response to COVID-19

Author: Guest blogger
Posted: 2 Jun 2020 | 13:44

The COVID19 research data service, which EPCC helped build, will bring together expertise, resource and capabilities from a range of programmes across the public sector. Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician and Data Officer for the Scottish Government, explains how it will support Scotland's response to the pandemic.

I want to share an update on how Research Data Scotland (RDS) is supporting the national response to COVID-19.

RDS’s mission remains to improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing in Scotland by enabling access to and linkage of data about people, places and businesses for research in the public good.

In response to the national emergency, a new data taskforce, of which I am chair, has been established. While Scotland have been delivering high quality research in a secure and ethical way for a number of years, the ambition of the data taskforce is to enable evidence-based policy and operational decisions in response to the current COVID-19 situation.

This will be achieved by building on and repurposing our existing and emerging data infrastructure which includes resources, expertise and capabilities offered by service delivery partners and partner organisations, including The Scottish Government, PHS (eDRIS), NRS, EPCC and HDR-UK, alongside representatives from the University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews and University of Strathclyde. This builds on existing, accredited infrastructure and methodologies that enable us to maintain privacy and security while delivering outputs quickly.

Researchers will be able to carry out collaborative research and analysis that provides evidence for important COVID-19 related decisions, initially to support decisions on lifting social restrictions.

This group has identified key datasets that will help research to support decisions on lifting social restrictions, and the development of a plan for securing these datasets. This includes data on:

  • Use of healthcare services
  • Testing
  • Care home residents
  • Vulnerable groups
  • School pupils
  • Census data on work, family structures and commuting.

An infrastructure has also been established to hold and link data securely, and to provide secure online access for collaborative research. This has been developed by the Public Health Scotland and EPCC, and offers a virtual analytical workbench to allow research teams to work on the same datasets from different locations.

Work is well developed to secure these datasets, meanwhile forthcoming emergency data-sharing legislation will allow us to operate quickly, while ensuring that the data is accessed legally and ethically. We’d also welcome suggestions for additional datasets that may support emerging sets of needs.

For more information about accessing this data please visit ResearchData.Scot

This post first appeared on the Scottish Government's blog.