Data and Connectivity’s intended impact is:

  • For researchers to use data for COVID-19 research with greater speed, efficiency, scale, and ambition. 
  • For policymakers to have a more timely and relevant base of evidence to inform their decisions. 
  • For the public to benefit from stronger, research evidence-informed policies for COVID-19 response, and a data infrastructure that enables pandemic recovery and future health threat preparedness. 

Impact from Data and Connectivity-enabled research

Impact from Data and Connectivity-enabled infrastructure work

Data and Connectivity are working to improve data infrastructure to make it easier for trusted researchers to securely access and use data for COVID-19 related work.

A key element of this is involves developing and embedding consistent processes into the UK’s network of Trusted Research Environments – which are secure ‘data safe havens’ that hold sensitive health and administrative data from people in the UK.

Data and Connectivity have worked with researchers, the partners that manage Trusted Research Environments, and the public to improve: 

  • Researchers wanted to more guidance describing what data and services each Trusted Research Environment offers, and what the process of granting access to the data looks like.

    Data and Connectivity designed a survey Trusted Research Environments can complete to describe their service to potential users and created new homepages on the HDR Innovation Gateway to bring this consistent information together in one place. 

  • Researchers needed consistent and complete metadata – descriptions and information about a dataset, for example how many records it contains and the quality of certain details – in order to decide whether it would be of use to their work and whether they would be eligible to access the dataset.

    Data and Connectivity worked with Trusted Research Environments to implement automatically updating metadata catalogues that offer a richer description of datasets available for research, and synchronised these with the Gateway, making it easier for researchers to access accurate and up to data metadata in one place. 

  • Researchers need to show they have a ‘safe people’ accreditation to gain access to data held in Trusted Research Environments, but this creates an administrative burden on the researchers, those who manage Trusted Research Environments, and those who provide accreditation. Often, this accreditation will need to be approved multiple times across different data requests.

    Data and Connectivity designed a pilot project to make machine-readable researcher accreditation information held by the UK Statistics Authority’s Digital Economy Act accessible by the Gateway and other data services without needing to be manually re-entered by researchers.

  • Researchers need detailed information on the types of people included in a dataset –  like the representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, or with certain conditions – in order to be sure the dataset can be used to answer their research questions.

    Data and Connectivity collaborated with CoCONNECT to make National Core Study data assets available for Cohort Discovery, which is a federated analytics-powered advanced search that gives researchers better information about the kind of people represented in a dataset.

  • Researchers found inconsistencies in how different Trusted Research Environments required data access requests to be processed difficult and time consuming.

    Data and Connectivity designed an API (an interface that allows two or more computer programmes to interact with each other) that helps Trusted Research Environments seamlessly integrate their own digital access request application management system with incoming requests from the Gateway. This reduces the administrative burden on both data services and researchers. 

  • Talking to the public about their attitudes to health data research showed they wanted more transparency about how their data is used and how it benefits the public.

    Data and Connectivity designed a Data Use Register that captures information on what data is accessed and used from all of the Trusted Research Environments across the UK. In time, this will also record what research outputs the projects using these datasets have produced.

User journey for researchers using Data and Connectivity-supported infrastructure

Progress reports from Data and Connectivity

Read the regular Data and Connectivity progress reports for latest achievements and impact from the programme.

COVID-19 Data and Connectivity