Skip to content

There’s no progress without collaboration

Research Data Scotland Thu 21 September 2023 (© Photographer Andy Catlin Www.Andycatlin.Com) 9235
Blog posts

Roger Halliday

26 Sept 2023

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of Research Data Scotland (RDS), offers his reflections after the second RDS Partners' Meeting on 21 September 2023.

Our latest all-partner event marked the progress that’s being made at Research Data Scotland's second year of operating as a not-for-profit charitable organisation. Formally established in 2021 by the Scottish Government, we are working to make it simpler and faster to generate new insights that help create evidence-based policies to improve society.  

The inaugural all-partners’ meeting took place in March - despite that only being six months ago, we’ve come a long way since then.  We’ve been working with our partners to make tangible progress across our three themes:  

  • System wide approach to unlock Scotland’s data
  • Shaping our services for the future  
  • Strengthen collaboration, demonstrate trustworthiness  

A good example includes our systems development fund, which is part of a system-wide approach to unlock Scotland’s data. The five projects, worth over £760,000 awarded across the Regional Safe Havens, will help researchers and users of data to identify common standards, test new approaches and help spread good practice to simplify access to data in a safe and secure way. They finish up at the end of the year and I look forward to a showcase where we can all share findings from the different projects – this exemplifies our value of building in learning from the offset.    

Research Data Scotland Thu 21 September 2023 (© Photographer Andy Catlin Www.Andycatlin.Com) 9209
Professor Roger Halliday addresses a room full of RDS Partners

Another area of progress is a new website with user-centred design at its core as the first step towards a Researcher Access Service, which will be the main goal as part of shaping our services for the future. The Researcher Access Service will offer end-users a streamlined complete pathway to apply for and gain access to secure data for research. The first stage, known as the ‘standard pathway’, is planned to launch in early 2024.  

Development work to date has involved our Digital team focusing on the relaunch of the RDS website with new content and tools, prototyping the new process for a ‘standard pathway’ applications, and a technical appraisal of a digital case management system. The Data team has facilitated a group of our partners to review the storage and linkage process for the National Safe Haven. This has developed a model to speed delivery of data projects. 

None of the work for both digital and data workstreams, would have been possible without the collaboration of our partners. 

Research Data Scotland Thu 21 September 2023 (© Photographer Andy Catlin Www.Andycatlin.Com) 3386
RDS Partners gather in the Bayes Centre atrium

We identified synthetic data early on as having untapped potential and our progress in this area includes testing ideas with the public panel and developing our plans for Synthpop, a tool that allows users to create synthetic versions of confidential individual-level data for research.  

Public engagement is a critical activity and trust from the public, business and others is at the heart of our mission. Our third major theme is to strengthen collaboration, while demonstrating trustworthiness. Working with a number of organisations, we’ve been leading on public engagement and involvement for two DARE UK projects: SACRO (Semi-Automated Checking of Research Outputs) and SATRE (Standardised Architecture for Trusted Research Environments). As well as these DARE UK Driver projects, we have funded a series of public engagement projects across Scotland to support public engagement in data research. Reporting at the end of October, these eight projects worth over £56,000, have looked at including diverse voices, usually not represented, and a mix of approaches to breaking down barriers and empowering the public to engage with data research.  

RDS is a relative newcomer in this landscape that many of our partners have been working in for years. We’ve still got some way to go to realise our vision of a federated system of data for research that’s acceptable to data owners and the public and works equally well for researchers but we are on the way there and starting to make progress. We’re aware there is lots of experience and expertise across our partners and we’re keen to continue to work together and draw upon this pool of knowledge and skills.  

It’s clear we are much stronger together and partnership working will be key to our collective success.

Related content

Hugh Wallace, RDS Chief Information Officer, and Nora Cooke O

RDS progress marked at Partners' event

Research Data Scotland, formally established as a not-for-profit organisation, by the Scottish Government in 2021, held its second all-partners event on Thursday 21 September.

Research Data Scotland

26 Sept 2023

Subscribe to our updates 

To stay updated with Research Data Scotland, subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Sign up here Sign up here
Illustration of an envelope with a letter sticking out and a mobile phone with a person