CO-CONNECT is led by the University of Nottingham with the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh and the UK Health Security Agency as co-leads of the programme. It is funded by Medical Research Council and the Department of Health and Social Care as part of their direct response to the Pandemic.

CO-CONNECT and the HDR UK Cohort Discovery tool?

The CO-CONNECT project aims to fulfil the demand for new, innovative and efficient data infrastructure to support research into COVID-19, and future areas of interest.

It is working in collaboration with Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) to help streamline the process for scientists across the UK to find, access and analyse the data they need for research whilst keeping patient data confidential.

The Cohort Discovery Search Tool is available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway and implements the tools developed by CO-CONNECT, offering a web portal that researchers can login to and run cohort discovery questions, for example, females with asthma.

Furthermore, with patient involvement at the heart of its design, CO-CONNECT has ensured that our team of public members have been directly involved in the project to make sure that the public’s perspective is heard and acted upon at every stage of a research project.

Finding data

Across the UK, each time someone takes part in research, visits their GP or hospital, or takes a blood test, data from these events is securely held by the organisation that collected it.

As the data is collected in many places with many different processes it’s difficult and complex for researchers and public health groups to find it. Using the Cohort Discovery Tool, researchers can establish if data exists that meets the criteria of their project.

The tool does not reveal individual data but determines the scale of the cohort available, for example: 100 subjects (or people) across five data sets that are female with asthma. If the researcher wishes to request access to the data, they must do so through the organisation legally responsible for controlling it.

Accessing data

CO-CONNECT has also helped to develop a simplified and safe approval process for requesting accessing to health data via the Health Data Innovation Gateway. This involves providing researchers with contact information for each dataset and a standardised application form, built around the Five Safes framework, to obtain approvals from data custodians that have adopted this process.

Analysing data

CO-CONNECT is enabling data custodians to transform data into a standard format, saving both researchers and custodians time and effort in finding datasets and handling access enquires, and accelerating the route to impactful research.

It is also developing two methods to help researchers to analyse data. The first involves looking into federated analysis to build upon the Cohort Discovery Tool functionality and provide more complex trend analysis rather than simple counts. The second is working out a process for researchers to access and analyse data from multiple custodians through a single Trusted Research Environment.

Why is CO-CONNECT’s work important?

By standardising data and building a streamlined and secure infrastructure system, CO-CONNECT is helping researchers across the UK access the data they need more easily to help develop potential therapies and treatment for COVID-19 as well as answer key questions about immunity and the implications for patient outcomes.

CO-CONNECT is collaborating with HDR UK to scale the project and provide the capabilities to a the wider userbase via the Cohort Discovery Tool available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway.

Where can I find out more?

To find out more about CO-CONNECT, visit the project website at: CO-CONNECT


Access Cohort Discovery on the HDR Innovation Gateway