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Five minute profile: interview with Jen Campbell

Photo of Jen Campbell
Five minute profiles

Research Data Scotland

03 May 2024

Jen Campbell, Digital Delivery Lead, shares how her past experience helped develop the Researcher Access Service, and her hopes for the future of Research Data Scotland.

What’s your role at RDS and what does your typical workday involve?

I’m the Digital Delivery Lead at RDS, which means I’m responsible for the delivery of our digital services and projects. This involves coordinating lots of different activities right across RDS and beyond – from managing technology suppliers, to liaising with stakeholders, to building and maintaining programme plans.

My days can be really varied – sometimes I’m right down in the detail, such as discussing a specific technical requirement for our recently-launched Researcher Access Service, and other times I’m looking at the long-term strategy for the service or working on ways to promote it to researchers. I work closely with others in the Digital team, as well as with colleagues in eDRIS (Electronic Data Research and Innovation Service), part of Public Health Scotland, who have been instrumental in developing the service with us.

“I’m endlessly fascinated by the interesting and varied things people have done before coming to RDS”

What’s your background and how does it give you additional insight to your work at RDS? 

I started my career in Technology Consulting and worked on digital projects within Financial Services. This gave me some great experience in digital service delivery, but I’d always had an interest in government and public sector work. I moved into a role as a Transformation Manager in the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate and had the opportunity to work on a number of exciting programmes including the set-up of new social security benefits and a common payments platform for the Scottish public sector. During this time, I moved into a Product Manager role and took on the responsibility of leading Scottish Government’s Product Management community of practice.

When the opportunity to come to RDS on a secondment arose, it seemed like a great way to use my digital delivery experience in a new context and gain some new skills and knowledge in the data domain. My previous experience has given me insights into the challenges which can come with trying to transform processes which span a number of different organisations, which is a common feature of much of our work at RDS.

What’s a highlight and a challenge of your role? 

A highlight of my role is the fact that I get to collaborate with so many different people across RDS and our partner organisations such as Public Health Scotland. Delivering the Researcher Access Service has truly been a team effort and it’s been a privilege to work with so many dedicated and knowledgeable colleagues. I’m endlessly fascinated by the interesting and varied things people have done before coming to RDS, too.

A challenge for me is that I’m fairly new to the data and research landscape so I’ve had quite a steep learning curve since joining RDS. However, I think this can be a benefit too when you’re trying to transform a system, as asking ‘why’ is a great way to identify opportunities for change. This was particularly important when working with colleagues to design the new, streamlined approvals process for the Researcher Access Service. Asking lots of questions allowed me to build an understanding of the information governance principles underpinning the service, and ensure that the rest of the process works to support efficient decision-making by the Approval Panel.

“I hope we can make a difference to levels of public understanding of how administrative data is used in research”

What difference do you hope RDS will make? 

I hope RDS will be able to transform the processes involved in getting access to public sector data for research so that valuable insights can be gained much more quickly. Along with this, I hope we can make a difference to levels of public understanding of how administrative data is used in research, and contribute to building a transparent, understandable and trusted system for data access.

What would be your "Mastermind" specialist subject? 

It’s not very highbrow, but I’d have to say the TV series Gilmore Girls, which I’ve rewatched more times than I should admit.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

A previous line manager, when discussing a work-related decision I was trying to make, asked me to think about whether I was approaching it from a place of hope or fear. That conversation often comes to mind when I’m making difficult decisions both in my personal and work life.

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