Research Data Scotland

Submitted by IanGreen on Wed, 01/27/2021 - 16:39

Research Data Scotland will provide a service for accessing public sector datasets that have the potential to save money time and lives.

It will offer safe, secure and cost effective access to data for research, innovation and investment by enabling its users to deliver insight and understanding that will help create a more successful country through increased wellbeing, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and improving the health of the nation.

We will work collaboratively with data controllers and users to develop the service while building trust and support from the public.


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

As a result, the opportunity to save time, money and improve lives is being missed. We need to work with data controllers and users to improve the quality of data for research use. We also need to make access to data more cost-effective, faster and more streamlined whilst ensuring there is ongoing trust, support and feedback from the public. 

Research Data Scotland (RDS) is a new service that will offer a single point of contact for safe, secure and cost-effective access to high value public sector datasets for research, innovation and investment. RDS aims to improve access to data in order to support research that will benefit the public. We are launching RDS through a phased approach to ensure the service provides a smooth user experience ahead of becoming fully operational later in 2020.

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 functional, 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

Initial data offering

  • RDS’s initial data offering will be focussed around a suite of key public sector data, which will become available through ADR Scotland.
  • ADR Scotland (Administrative Data Research Scotland) is a partnership combining specialists in the Scottish Government’s Data Sharing and Linkage Unit with the expertise of academic researchers at the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research.
  • Together they are transforming how public sector data in Scotland is curated, accessed and explored, so it can deliver its full potential for policymakers and for the public.
  • This investment will secure data holdings broadly aligned to Scotland’s National Outcomes, including Children, Health and Wellbeing, and Education destinations

Safe and secure data access

  • RDS continues to follow existing, safe and secure arrangements to ensure privacy and ethical data use is maintained. This includes; ensuring activity is underpinned by a valid legal basis, using the Public Benefit and Privacy Panels to scrutinise the use of data, engaging with the Information Commissioner’s Office to provide reassurance about our approaches and working with data infrastructure delivery partners who will have the highest level of UK accreditation standards.
  • RDS will carefully review all data access requests to ensure that; the requestor holds the appropriate level of accreditation where required, the research is in the public good, and is in line with the data controllers recognised use of their data. RDS will check all research outputs to ensure they do not allow people or organisations to be identified.

Responding to COVID-19

  • In response to the pandemic, a COVID-19 research data service has been established to ensure that requests for data for COVID-19-related research come through a single point of contact in order to maintain a secure and coordinated response.
  • This has been made possible by bringing together expertise, resource and capabilities from a range of existing data-led programmes across the public sector and more specifically the work which is already underway on the development of RDS and ADR-Scotland programmes.
  • 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 and over time the recovery phase and long term consequence management.


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