Health Data Research UK

Author: Michele Weiland
Posted: 24 Aug 2018 | 15:00

The application of cutting-edge data science to health and medical data in order to address population health challenges is an exciting and fast moving new field of research. Health Data Research (HDR) UK, a pioneering national institute, was formed in April 2018 to support world-leading research in this area.

The institute is a joint investment led by the Medical Research Council, together with eight public and charitable organisations. HDR UK brings together the country’s leading expertise in data analytics, computing and statistics with health data, medical research and genomics, with the aim of developing cutting-edge analytical tools and methodologies to address the most pressing health research challenges.

National Data Safe Haven and EPCC’s role

Scotland has an internationally recognised wealth of linkable, health-related data (both routinely collected and consented data, such as Generation Scotland), covering 5.4 million people from cradle to grave. The data is arguably the most extensive in the UK for geographic coverage and phenotypic diversity, linkable via the Community Health Index (CHI) number, and with far greater retrospective reach than elsewhere in the UK. Scotland also has the UK’s only national prescribing/dispensing and hospital imaging datasets.

EPCC hosts much of this data in the National Data Safe Haven (NDSH), a highly secure computing environment with high-performance storage and compute infrastructure. EPCC ensures not only that the data is securely accessible for ethically approved research, but also that the infrastructure can cope with the demands of large scale, very complex data analytics.

This activity started as part of the Farr Institute, and is now continuing as part of HDR UK. The NDSH allows approved researchers to access and analyse this health and medical data, and it provides the opportunity for unprecedented insight into the health of Scotland’s population. Being able to perform statistical analysis across multiple different large-scale datasets is opening new avenues for innovative research that will be of significant benefit to public health, not just in Scotland. EPCC is thrilled to be part of this initiative, and we are looking forward to supporting the ground-breaking research that will emerge.

Scotland Substantive Site

There are six HDR UK sites in total, comprising a total of 22 universities and research institutes. One of these sites is in Scotland, led by the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the Universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, St Andrews and Strathclyde. Find out more at

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Michèle Weiland, EPCC

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