A new report published today by the Medical Research Council provides a map of health data research across the UK (as of October 2017), detailing key activities and major investments made by UK public funders, government, charities and universities from across the country.
The report – Mapping the Landscape of UK Health Data Research and Innovation – acts as an important benchmark to help advise funder strategy, prevent duplication of effort and encourage collaboration in the informatics sector, both within the field and for external stakeholders.
Details within the report helped to inform the establishment of Health Data Research UK, which announced its six Substantive Sites comprising 23 research organisations in February 2018.
Professor Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK, said:
“We welcome this initial mapping report, which provides a valuable resource about the health data research capabilities and resources we have across the UK. It is an exciting time for health data science in the UK; the challenge is to bring together this outstanding expertise to deliver benefits to the health of patients and populations. We are delighted that many of the research organisations referenced in this report, plus others including the Universities of Aberdeen, Nottingham, St Andrews, and Strathclyde, are now part of the HDR UK family.”
Dr Rob Buckle, Chief Science Officer at the Medical Research Council said:
“This report is snapshot of activity at a particular point in time in a very fast-moving sector but is a great resource for organisations looking to fund, research or collaborate in this area. It will help stop us reinventing the wheel, plug research gaps and inform an ambitious future research strategy. What’s more, it highlights what a diverse and exciting area health data research is. This sector is thriving and in addition to its importance for promoting health and well-being, has huge potential to help deliver the UK Industrial Strategy, making the UK a global leader of the industries of the future.”
Every day, more data than ever before is being generated about our lives. Allowing researchers to examine health data safely and securely could hold the key to unlocking treatments and preventing a whole host of diseases. But the sector needs specialist research expertise, underpinned by a commitment to ethics, privacy and public engagement, to apply cutting edge analytical methods to make sense of both the volume and complexity of information. This report, prepared by the MRC, highlights the significant growth in this area of research, from multimillion pound investments in institutes dedicated to data analysis, to interdisciplinary collaborations, partnerships and training programmes, and social science and public engagement expertise – the depth and breadth of activity is striking.
This is a transformational time for the health data research community, with a multitude of players all over the world. The UK not only has a tremendous wealth and variety of health data but also a real strength in analytical skills. This report reveals that the UK has a very real opportunity to be a global leader in health data research and by harnessing this potential could yield huge benefits for our nation’s health and wealth.