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Researcher Access Service

Learn more about how our new service will simplify and speed up access to secure data for research.

Introduction and background

Research Data Scotland’s mission is to promote and advance health and social wellbeing in Scotland by enabling access to public sector data about people, places and businesses. A focus for RDS over the next two to three years is working with our partners and stakeholders to develop our Researcher Access Service, which will offer researchers a streamlined end-to-end pathway to apply for and gain access to secure data for research.

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. On the organisational side, administration tools are limited and there is no effective means to track and monitor applications.

RDS’s initial work on the Researcher Access Service will improve the upfront information available to researchers, work to digitise the application process (including a portal for applicants to track the status of their application throughout) and introduce a risk-based triage approach to information governance, fast-tracking simpler projects that don’t require complex privacy considerations.

Vision for a new service

The aim of the Researcher Access Service is to make it faster and simpler to access data to support research in the public good. The service needs to operate securely, lawfully and offer an improved end-to-end experience for front- and back-end users while reducing errors and duplication.

We will achieve this by:

  • Maximising the use and re-use of data acquired and stored within a secure data holding, with a consistent approach to linking datasets
  • Building access to a portfolio of data assets around people, places, and businesses that are held securely and accessible at pace
  • Development of a single digital solution to help manage interactions with applicants and potential applicants, build partnership relationships, and streamline processes
  • Creation of a service model where the pathway to data for research in the public good is proportionate to the risk of access
  • Improving the guidance and data discovery offering to better support researchers and research applications

At a high level, we envision the Researcher Access Service breaking down into six stages: Discover, Enquire, Apply, Approve, Access and Outputs. Each of these stages will have multiple touchpoints with end users of the service, and those who are administering it.

Incremental progress

The service itself will be built incrementally, with the aim of introducing different features and elements over time – with the common objective of reducing time and effort to access data. Continuous improvements will be made as we understand how people are using the service and as other areas of work progress (for instance, information governance, data acquisition, and partnerships).

We intend to follow best practice and adhere to criteria set out in the Digital Scotland Service Standard, striving to design a service that meets users’ needs, is sustainable in the long term, and is based on strategic technology choices.

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