Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the national institute for health data science, has today made available a sophisticated new tool as part of its mission to improve the discovery and access of datasets for the health research community. 

The new Data Utility Wizard allows researchers to search for and discover datasets listed on the the Gateway using specific criteria and filters. The tool deploys a simple, user-friendly interface that allows researchers to narrow their search for datasets by answering a series of simple questions.  

The Data Utility Wizard has been released in “beta” format and in line with our role to collaborate and convene the sector, HDR UK looks forward to user feedback from the research community to develop and refine the tool. 

The development of the tool is based on HDR UK’s Data Utility Framework, the foundational piece of work completed in 2020 to help researchers navigate datasets by categorising them across multiple dimensions. The framework was developed in partnership with users and data custodians from across the sector, including members of the UK Health Data Alliance; and based on an initial Green Paper published in August 2020. 

Ben Gordon, Executive Director: Hubs and Data Improvement, Health Data Research UK (HDR UK):

“In 2020, we developed a new framework to support researchers make more sense of the vast amount of datasets available to them. The Data Utility Wizard is the natural progression of this work, transforming the framework into a practical tool that supports the research experience; and represents another step on our journey of curating, categorising and improving the discovery of the UK’s health data.”  

Blythe Adamson, PhD, MPH, Director, Quantitative Sciences, Flatiron Health:

“A key part of Flatiron’s vision is to solve the problem of how to structure health data better, in order to accelerate research and improve care. We were proud to partner with Health Data Research UK on pressure testing and exploring applications of this important new tool. We look forward to seeing the HDR UK Data Utility Tool put to use helping researchers identify fit-for-purpose datasets to answer research questions.”

The Data Utility Wizard has been developed by HDR UK’s technology partner (PA Consulting) and with the support of Flatiron Health.  

To use Data Utiliy Wizard, visit the Gateway below and select ‘advanced search’ under the search bar:

Visit the Gateway

Useful links

Read more and watch our video explainer on how we are transforming the utility of health data. 

Read the paper in BMJ Health & Care Informatics on how we developed the framework to curate health data.  


The UK has a rich resource of health data – it is estimated that approximately 10,000 health datasets exist in the UK, across the NHS, academia, medical research charities and “industry” (including pharmaceutical and life science organisations). 

However, many researchers still do not know WHAT health datasets exist or HOW to find and access them. Indeed, many researchers still report that up to 80% of their time is spent finding and accessing data, before they can even begin their research. 

HDR UK seeks to improve the discovery and access of health data, working with data custodians and researchers to make datasets available for research through the UK’s only unified platform – the Gateway.  

Since its launch as a Minimum Viable Product in May 2020, the Gateway now has over 670 datasets listed and available to access, including over 93 assets related to COVID-19 to support the priority research into the pandemic. 350 datasets include detailed metadata, further enhancing the ability of researchers to search for and assess the datasets they need. There have now been over 100,000 searches for datasets and over 1,500 people have registered, providing the ability to request access to datasets.  

As well as providing discovery and access to datasets, the Gateway seeks to provide researchers with innovative tools and functionality to enhance both. In April 2021, HDR UK released the “Cohort Discovery” tool, allowing health researchers to specify, access and analyse specific population cohorts across multiple datasets in a secure environment.  

The Data Utility Wizard therefore represents another step on the journey to achieve our vision to use large scale data and advanced analytics to enhance health care in the UK.