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New grant funding announced to support research in the public benefit

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Research Data Scotland

09 Jan 2024

Research Data Scotland has announced the Accelerator Awards, a brand-new grant fund worth £50,000, to promote research for the public benefit in Scotland.

Research Data Scotland’s (RDS) mission is to advance health and social wellbeing in Scotland by enabling better access to public sector data about people, places and businesses. Part of this mission involves the development of the Researcher Access Service, a streamlined end-to-end platform for researchers to apply for and access secure data for research in the public good.

In early 2024, RDS will launch the next phase of the Researcher Access Service. The service has been co-developed in partnership with Public Health Scotland/eDRIS, the organisation that curates and controls many of Scotland’s most powerful national health datasets. On launch, it will offer a fully digitised, faster, and more efficient pathway for research projects that use nine of Public Health Scotland’s most frequently requested datasets. Projects deemed suitable for this new pathway will no longer need to be considered by the Public Benefit Privacy Panel. Instead, projects will follow a risk- based triage process guided by the Five Safes framework.

To mark this system-wide improvement, RDS has created the Accelerator Awards - a £50,000 grant fund for non-commercial organisations to deliver research projects through the Researcher Access Service.

The aims of the Accelerator Awards are to promote research for the public benefit in Scotland, to cement the new digitised pathway as part of the Researcher Access Service, and to gain valuable user feedback to inform and shape future developments. RDS hopes that the successful applicants will become key advocates for data access improvements in Scotland that maximise public benefit.

Key dates and Q&A session

Applications for the Accelerator Awards are open now. The deadline for applications is 3pm on Tuesday 20 February 2024. More information on how to apply can be found below.

RDS hosted an online Q&A session about the Accelerator Awards on Tuesday 30 January. Hosted by Rosie Seaman, Data Sourcing Manager, the session gave participants the chance to learn more about the awards and ask questions.

Watch a recording of the Q&A session.

Eligibility criteria

Accelerator Award applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Researchers must be part of an approved organisation
  • Researchers must have up-to-date and approved information governance training
  • The project is clearly defined, feasible, and demonstrates a clear public benefit (examples include but are not limited to: helping to better understand the health and care needs of populations or advancing understanding of the need for, or effectiveness of, preventative health and care measures for particular populations or conditions such as obesity and diabetes)
  • The project utilises the linkage potential of the new pathway
  • The project includes a reasonable justification for resources being requested within the scope of the funding available
  • The applicant agrees to participate in user engagement activities to inform and shape improvements to the data linkage landscape in Scotland
  • The applicant demonstrates a sound understanding of individual level linked data
  • The applicant demonstrates sound commitment to sharing their experiences to inform future improvements to the data linkage landscape in Scotland 

RDS will consider applications for reasonable resources and timescales, funding up to a total of £25,000 per application. As part of the award, the standard data access cost will be waived, as a one-off. Data access costs therefore do not need to be included in the justification for resources.

The Researcher Access Service

Currently, ways of accessing public sector data for research in areas such as health, education, child protection and justice are extremely fragmented. From a researcher’s perspective, even simple requests are not straightforward, forcing people to work across multiple websites and follow often convoluted processes.

The Researcher Access Service will speed up and simplify this process through the creation of a digitised end-to-end pathway (including a portal for applicants to track the status of their application).

At launch, the Researcher Access Service will enable a new pathway for research projects with a study population and linkages from the following nine datasets only:

Dataset name

Date range

Outpatient Appointments and Attendances - Scottish Morbidity Record (SMR00) Jan 1997 - 2023
General Acute Inpatient and Day Case - Scottish Morbidity Record (SMR01) April 1997 - 2023
Maternity Inpatient and Day Case - Scottish Morbidity Record (SMR02) April 1997 - 2023
Mental Health Inpatient and Day Case - Scottish Morbidity Record (SMR04) April 1997 - 2023
Scottish Cancer Registry (SMR06) April 1997 - 2023
Prescribing Information System (PIS) January 2015 - 2023
Scotland Accident and Emergency January 2011 - 2023
National Records of Scotland (NRS) - Births Data 1981 - 2023 (*four variables on social class and employment status only populated from 1996)
National Records of Scotland (NRS) - Deaths Data 2015 - 2023


Full eligibility criteria and guidance notes on the datasets and variables that can be requested is available on the application form.

Interested in supporting the development of the Researcher Access Service and helping to develop and improve our work? Subscribe to our engagement contact list.

RDS is a not-for-profit charitable organisation created and funded by Scottish Government. We are a partnership between Scottish Government, leading universities and public bodies, such as Public Health Scotland (PHS) and National Records Scotland (NRS), working together to make it quicker and simpler to use public sector data for public good.

To hear about future funding opportunities at RDS, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on X (Twitter) and LinkedIn.

If you have any questions, please email

How to apply

Applications are open now. The deadline for applications is 3pm on Tuesday 20 February 2024.


Click here to apply Click here to apply
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