Answering some common questions about Research Data Scotland

March 10, 2020 by No Comments | Category Research Data Scotland

By Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician

We’ve been making solid progress developing Research Data Scotland (RDS) over the last few months, working closely with our partners and stakeholders. I wanted to take this opportunity to answer some of the common questions that have been discussed in my recent conversations.

As developments continue, I’ll share further updates that will look in more detail at the progress being made around the user journey, legal status, governance and funding.

Once fully operational, what is RDS aiming to do?

RDS’s charitable mission is 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.

What are the principles on which RDS is founded?

There are six principles on which underpin RDS’s charitable mission;

  • RDS will only enable access to data for research that is for the public good and improves our understanding of equalities
  • RDS will ensure that researchers and RDS staff can only access data once an individual’s personal identity has been removed
  • RDS will ensure that all data about people, businesses or places is always kept in a controlled and secured environment
  • RDS will be transparent about all it does, with details of all applications to use data being published
  • All income that RDS generates will be re-invested into services to help researchers continue to access data
  • Firms that access public data for the public good through RDS will share any commercial benefits back into public services

How will RDS achieve this?

RDS will declutter data access in Scotland. Their data catalogue will help researchers understand what data is available for research, and their researcher service will offer a seamless pathway that brings together the various parts of the researcher access journey regardless of the type of data being requested.

What services will RDS provide?

RDS’s initial service offering will provide a single point of access to help researchers access a suite of key public sector data. The aim of RDS is to empower researchers and analysts to unlock value from public sector data. RDS will facilitate this by partnering with service delivery partners such as National Records of Scotland, University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre and NHS/NSS.

When fully operational, RDS will:

  • Develop and maintain a data holdings portfolio that is de-identified and held securely
  • Provide a catalogue of the various datasets and metadata available that will include Data Controllers requirements, sampling methodology, and any restrictions on data use
  • Triage researchers’ enquiries and provide customer support service by offering a seamless journey from the point of enquiry to data delivery
  • Provide a service allowing data controllers to bring their datasets and link these to established datasets in the RDS portfolio for research in the public good
  • Provide a data analysis service
  • Ensure data access via the Scottish network of safe settings

Will I have to pay for access to data?

RDS will charge for services to access datasets. However, RDS is a not for profit organisation. Income will be invested in the service to pay for the expertise needed to keep data safe and to make it as useful as possible for researchers doing work in the public good. Data will not leave the safe settings overseen by RDS.

If private sector organisations use RDS to access public sector data, they will pay for that access. In addition, RDS will agree a benefit sharing arrangement where a share of profit derived from this data access will be fed back into public services.

Why are you launching RDS now?

The Scottish Government is committed to facilitating data being shared securely for research that is in the public good. Currently it can be unclear what public sector data is available for use in research with the data being of unknown or poor quality. It can also take too long to access data as a result of it being dispersed between and within public sector organisations.

We want to work with data controllers and users to improve the quality of data for research use while also making access to data more cost-effective, faster and more streamlined. We need to ensure there is ongoing trust, support and feedback from the public.


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