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Highlights and Impact 2021 to 2024

In our first Highlights and Impact review, discover how we're working to connect researchers to public sector data and make it faster and simpler to generate research.

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Welcome to the Research Data Scotland Highlights and Impact review

RDS is a charity registered in Scotland, established in 2021 by the Scottish Government. We are working to connect researchers to public sector data making it faster and simpler to generate evidence to help others improve society.

We work with other organisations in Scotland and the UK to build on, and transform, key aspects of the data research system.

This report covers the period September 2021 to April 2024.


Roger Halliday

CEO of Research Data Scotland

“Research Data Scotland (RDS) was established as an independent charity in 2021, created and funded by Scottish Government. Our mission is to make it simpler and faster to generate evidence to help create policies to improve society.

“Data is often locked away in lots of individual systems, across many different organisations and is not in a format that makes access or integration easy.

“Scotland’s advanced data systems means we have a rich history in data informatics and long-standing datasets with good population coverage. Accessing data can take too long, meaning research questions remain unanswered and policymaking becomes more difficult without the latest evidence.

“Scottish Government’s Health and Care Data strategy places the need for access and linkage at the heart of research and innovation. Since the global pandemic, where we saw the importance of this type of data in real-time, there is huge appetite and momentum to use our public sector data for wider benefit as with other countries of a similar size.

“This is our first highlights and impact document. In the short time since being created, RDS has moved from diagnosing the well-known issues around the data system and access, which have been long documented, to proposing and implementing solutions.

“By leading change collaboratively with partners, building on strong relationships, RDS intends to align approaches, standards and policies that enable data sharing at pace for research that helps to save time and money, and improve wider society. Building on user feedback, we are starting to deliver new researcher services that unlock a wider range of data.

“The next year promises to be exciting as we move towards standard operation and to faster and simpler data access.”

Paul Boyle

Chair of the Board at RDS

“Building on a long history of administrative data analysis in Scotland, Research Data Scotland (RDS) is in the unique position of accelerating change to transform how researchers and other users can access and use routinely collected data. The Scottish Government’s important investment in creating and establishing RDS mirrors the wider UK Government’s ambitions to use data to “bring benefits to all parts of health and social care – from patients and care users to staff on the frontline and pioneers driving the most cutting-edge research.” This strategy cannot be enacted without the commitment to invest in “secure data environments to power life-saving research and treatments” (Scottish Government, Data saves lives)

“In Scotland, this commitment will be achieved through RDS. Data from a wide range of domains are currently fragmented across multiple platforms and there is a vital need to simplify this ecosystem. The changes to data applications and approvals RDS is championing adhere to the well-established ‘five safes’ framework, and have been tested with data owners and the public to build the trust upon which RDS relies. The payoff from removing barriers to research and innovation will have a huge, lasting impact.

“Realising greater value from Scotland’s already excellent data is central to RDS’s mission. The launch of a Researcher Access Service in early 2024, a brand-new service designed specifically around the needs of researchers and data users, will simplify and speed up access to secure Scottish public sector data for research. RDS is also supporting the delivery of the ADR Scotland programme - a UKRI funded initiative that aims to improve decision making in governments. This reflects RDS’s expanding remit which includes data access, data support alongside service delivery.

“I am confident that RDS’s work over the next 12 months will help to make it easier for researchers to investigate and link public sector datasets safely. Their insights will provide a crucial platform for policymakers to develop approaches and interventions for wider society and public benefit.”


Research Data Scotland is a not-for-profit charity, established in 2021 by the Scottish Government. Now in our third year as an independent charity, RDS has achieved a number of key achievements across different areas of work.

In the last year, especially, Research Data Scotland has made progress and tangible impact in the following areas:

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Systems Leadership Framed Dark Blue

Systems leadership

Explore how we're building capacity across the entire Scottish data network.

Find out more
Collaboration Trustworthiness Framed Dark Blue

Partners and the public

Learn how we're working collaboratively with partners, stakeholders and the public.

Find out more
Shaping Our Services Framed Dark Blue

Shaping our services

Learn more about how we're bringing improvements to data systems across Scotland.

Find out more


This year’s business plan, from April 2024 to March 2025, outlines our activity in four key areas.

Explore our business plan highlights and learn more about the future of RDS.

Explore our business plan

Our people

RDS is a small organisation with a total of 38 employees at the end of March 2024.

Our motivated team comprises of experts in a wide range of disciplines including data, statistics, business management, communications and digital delivery.

Learn more about the different teams within RDS, who leads them and the values than underpin our work.

Find out more