Information

Research Data Scotland – Full Business Case

The Research Data Scotland (RDS) Full Business Case (FBC) sets out proposals for the establishment of a new national service that has the potential to save time, money and lives.


Strategic Case

Purpose

The purpose of the Strategic Case is to provide strategic justification for the Project, including outlining the background and associated objectives of the Project, as well as assessing stakeholders, opportunities and risks.

The chapter is set out in the following sections:

1. Strategic context: drivers for change and opportunities

2. Project background

3. Mission statement

4. Founding principles

5. What RDS will do and deliver: scope - required organisational capability

6. Benefits of RDS

7. Business needs – responding to Covid 19 research requirements

8. RDS delivery programme

9. Strategic risks

10. Constraints and dependencies

11. Conclusions.

Strategic Context: Drivers for Change and Opportunities

Scotland has a rich history of public sector data informatics, which has served to enrich and inform our most valued public services. Collaboration in Scotland between academia and the public sector has supported a national model of cross-sectoral research which has delivered path-finding innovation and won numerous civil service awards, delivering key insights and furthering our understanding of some of the most pressing public policy issues.

While this collaboration has proven successful, it has grown out of the efforts of a small number of specialist technical teams and academics across Scotland to make it work. This has made it less resilient to change as data science and innovation have progressed and the system needs to grow and flex if it is to stay relevant and fit for purpose to meet the needs of a growing community of users.

Joined Up Data for Better Decisions

In 2012, following public consultation, the Scottish Government (SG) published Joined Up Data for Better Decisions. This strategy set out SG's ambitions for making better use of existing public sector data sources. The focus was on building outward from the strengths and successes of health data informatics[2].

The Data Linkage Framework was established as a mechanism to deliver this strategy and set out three core ambitions:

i. To build on existing successful programmes collaboratively to create a culture where legal, ethical, and secure data-linkage is accepted and expected

ii. To minimise the risks to privacy and enhance transparency, by driving up standards in data sharing and linkage procedures

iii. To encourage and facilitate full realisation of the benefits that can be achieved through data-linkage to maximise the value of administrative and survey data.

A set of Guiding Principles was consulted on and published alongside the strategy and laid out a consistent decision making framework for data controllers and others involved in data linkage for research and statistics. These are still valid today and support all of the data linkage activity that takes place.

While the aims have not changed, the ambition has intensified. This is because projects that have delivered policy insight have increased interest in the use of administrative data and linkage methods to address public policy challenges. Fiscal consolidation has further heightened the need to look beyond expensive longitudinal surveys and studies towards more efficient and cost effective methods of answering research questions.

Covid 19

The onset of the Covid 19 pandemic and urgent need to progress the scientific evidence relating to the virus and its transmission has also reinforced the need to transform the existing service offering. The system faces a variety of concurrent challenges that require solutions; some of these are new – others, identified earlier, require fresh thinking and renewed commitment.

Office for Statistical Regulation: UK Statistics Authority

In 2018, the Office for Statistical Regulation published their systematic review of data linkage, Joining up Data for Better Statistics, which set out to identify key priorities and areas for improvement to the way the UK statistical system makes use of data linkage methods to deliver public policy insight. The report identified six key outcomes designed to deliver an effective and safe data linkage system, and against which existing services should be evaluated. The report celebrated success stories and found impactful examples of data linkage being used to inform policy making; however, it noted that this was the exception rather than the rule. It warned that the time and effort required to deliver projects was putting people off relying on this as a core research method.

In Scotland, as elsewhere, information about datasets is not readily available and it takes too long to access and link diverse datasets. Data are dispersed both between and within public sector organisations and are not always available in a linkage ready format.

Furthermore, the system of IG is not designed to deliver projects that draw in data from multiple data controllers. This also leads to delays in data being available for research and innovation. For academia, this means we are not securing a suitable share of the available UK research funding, and for public bodies, there is a lack of data to support public service reform.

Scotland is fortunate to have some of the best data in the world. Some data are about people - their characteristics and behaviours; other data are non-personal - such as data about climate or pollution. Being able to access this data or to bring this data together can help address complex social and environmental issues and fill vital evidence gaps. Scotland also possesses world-leading expertise, particularly in our universities, in ethical, legal and social disciplines, as well as resources and skills in data infrastructure, data management, analysis and informatics.

Scotland is therefore well placed to harness the value and benefit inherent in our public sector data assets to deliver better outcomes for the people of Scotland whilst safeguarding the privacy of individuals.

There is, therefore, a real opportunity for RDS to serve as a catalyst in unlocking the social value inherent in our data assets and research. This is coupled with potential economic benefits too: a recent study for Scottish Enterprise[3] suggested data innovation could potentially benefit Scotland by £20bn over the next five years. A report on the value of big data to the UK Economy for CEBR identified similar value[4].

Using data better supports improvements to society, productivity and organisational efficiency, attracting new businesses and highly paid jobs to Scotland. The average salary of a data professional in Scotland in 2018 was £50,000[5]. However, due to delays in provisioning complex data, investment that could be happening in Scotland is beginning to flow elsewhere, and this represents a national competitive disadvantage with an increasing opportunity cost.

System Challenges

The current data access set-up has delivered effective research flexibly; however several challenges remain unaddressed and these are further exacerbated as new demands are placed on the system. The most pressing of these challenges are set out here.

Uncoordinated Data Governance processes and structures

Policies and structures supporting IG functions have come into existence over time in response to data protection legislation; however this has given rise to a system that cannot easily support cross-sectoral research. IG policies are perceived as a hurdle rather than as a springboard to ethical research in the public interest. This perspective needs to shift.

This is particularly the case where different data sources are linked for a single project, requiring several un-coordinated data access processes. This has resulted in difficulty knowing who owns the data of interest and putting permissions in place can often take over 12 months: this leads to project delays and timelines can be difficult to predict. There is a need to better co-ordinate and streamline processes relating to all types of data availability and promote sharing of best practice across the community of public sector data controllers. This builds trust, expertise and experience.

The public also hold mixed views about the use of their data in research - we need to ensure there is ongoing engagement, trust, support and feedback from the public.

Data is often of unknown or poor quality - lack of information about data

It can be unclear what public sector data are available for use in research and data can be of unknown or poor quality. This means that some data are collected more than once and significant effort is expended to find out where helpful data is and the best route for access. We need to work with data controllers and users to improve the quality of data for research use.

There is an increasing demand for more recent and real-time data. This poses challenges for our infrastructure due to the investment and automation required in securing that data, as well as ensuring the quality of this information.

Projects require a lot of effort in preparing data where this is not already done. This means that the business case for using existing data sources rather than collecting fresh data is less clear cut in many cases, again a barrier to helpful research happening.

Less mature service model for cross-sectoral data linkage research

It can take a long time to assemble data for cross-sectoral research projects and this can be expensive. RDS will establish a standard approach by fitting a service model around such needs and supporting the skills, training and resources to deliver on this demand.

To date, making progress in data linkage projects has required several teams stepping in to support delivery with valuable and diverse skillsets but the result is a process where the roles across service providers become blurred. This leads to inefficiencies and has meant reduced resilience within each of those functions and some skill and technology deficiencies that make the current approach imperfect.

Bilateral/separate commissioning arrangements in Scotland

Existing funding and commissioning arrangements for the data infrastructure and data linkage service model comprise largely of a set of bilateral arrangements and financial transfers between various funders and service providers. This arrangement does not lend itself to ready appraisal of the cost effectiveness of the system as a whole in meeting its objectives, or of the individual parts therein. Alignment of the various funding sources through RDS with single contracts for activity with each service provider is expected to promote more efficient and effective service provision, to better align incentives and to realise non-cash releasing efficiencies.

Stakeholder-specific issues

Ongoing feedback from stakeholders has highlighted several challenges and communicated expectations around optimal future data provisioning and access for research in Scotland. These views were further captured as part of a Discovery Phase to inform the OBC and this FBC. Some of the issues raised consistently by stakeholders, and that RDS is seeking to address, are as follows:

Academics/researchers/analysts

  • It is unclear which public sector datasets are available for use in research and information is not readily available to potential users about what the process to gain access to the data involves
  • There is increasing demand for more recent and real-time data. This is currently difficult due to the investment and automation required in securing that data, as well as ensuring the quality of this information
  • Data are not always "linkage ready" so projects require a lot of preparatory effort; some of this upstream work and curation could be done earlier so that at the point a researcher expresses interest in using the data, it is clear what is available and how that can be used
  • Assessments of the privacy/public benefit and ethics are not co-ordinated and researchers are left to navigate several processes for a single programme of work. This duplicates effort and can introduce delays in decision-making
  • There are several legal frameworks in the data and data protection space including common law, Digital Economy Act 2017, Human Tissue Act 2006, Human Rights Act 1998, Data Protection legislation – and their application and interaction is not always clear.

Data Access and Linkage Service providers (NRS, EPCC, eDRIS/PHS)

  • While there has been funding for data linkage services in recent years, and many successful data linkage projects have been delivered, there has not been a sustainable business model that enables services to invest in future proofing, expands the range of data that is available for use in research, or creates ongoing efficiencies and innovation
  • The lack of distinct legal footing of the Scottish Informatics Linkage Collaborative (SILC) from its partner organisations and the collective of people, resources, technologies and platforms means that there has not been the required accountability, transparency and openness which is required of a modern efficient service.

Government

  • Government researchers and analysts also need access to data in a timely and cost-effective fashion
  • As regards data held by Government and the public sector there are also clear costs savings in terms of enabling data access via RDS instead of burdening individual data controllers with many individual requests
  • A centralised system of access/brokering point will ensure greater consistency of decision-making about what public data can be used for, who can access it, as well as more consistent management of public sector bodies' data related risk
  • It will promote further confidence in the data hosting and provisioning system in Scotland – to seek and attain accreditation through the UK Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) for use of the National Safe Haven (NSH) to host data from UK Government Departments such as HMRC and DWP.

Data controllers

  • Under RDS, data controllers will have the opportunity to host linkage ready datasets in the NSH
  • RDS will work with data controllers to agree clear, efficient and proportionate data access arrangements and IG processes for all data access requests
  • RDS will also facilitate access to non-linked datasets – for both individual level and aggregate level data, thereby relieving burden on data controllers to service these requests
  • It is anticipated that these changes will deliver efficiencies and economies of scale and will enable ongoing learning and testing of IG processes
  • RDS will provide resources and/or skills to facilitate the holding and curation of data which some data controllers currently lack, hence access to data is often seen as a costly and time-consuming operational exercise
  • A centralised system of access will foster greater consistency in decision-making about what data can be used for, who can access it, and how the risk management of the data can be undertaken more consistently
  • A clearer offering for data controllers in terms of benefits they will derive from sharing their data, for example, by supporting a specific and well identified research or policy challenge; helping with own evaluation and assessment /audit requirements (e.g. statutory and non-statutory); and improving operational effectiveness and service improvements.

Data professionals: statisticians/data scientists

  • Improved coordination of data access and better transparency of all data held within the public sector. This will enhance the opportunity to address important research and policy challenges and will therefore encourage more people to work with data by building capacity and capability in skills and experience that is in demand by Government and businesses, but currently in short supply
  • Building wider data science skills will benefit the wider economy
  • Building and enhancing skills capacity in the data space will also support social scientists to develop quantitative skills, which is vital for the development of social science and maximising the value of the wealth of data which already exist.

Project Background

Scottish Informatics Linkage Collaboration (SILC) - Business As Usual Service Model

The Scottish Informatics and Linkage Collaboration (SILC) came together in 2014 with the participation of several public sector and research council funding partners. Its purpose was to realise the vision of the Data Linkage Framework through delivery of a shared service model to support public benefit research using data linkage methods in Scotland. It aimed to promote collaborative cross-sector working, the sharing of best practice and joined-up approaches to resource investment across public bodies operating within the research data landscape. Oversight was provided by the SILC Senior Management Board (SILC-SMB).

This investment supported the setup of the state-of-the-art facility with associated national infrastructure located at No. 9, Edinburgh BioQuarter in which the Scottish nodes of the Farr Institute and Administrative Data Research Centre (ADRC) located as well as the Electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS). Further funders joined at later dates. The SILC-SMB acknowledged the importance of establishing a legacy for SILC with respect to the grant-based funding mechanisms of many of its component parts, and ensure its future success as a national resource.

The model comprised a set of shared resources that reflect closely how the service model delivers currently. This comprised the eDRIS team of research co-ordinators, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) indexing team, FARR IT infrastructure located now at the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC).

SILC SMB discussion about the need for change, SOC to OBC

Following discussions among senior stakeholders and funders participating in SILC[6] and taking on board feedback from users of the SILC resources, a sub-group of the SILC-SMB was convened to scope priorities and options for transforming the system supporting public benefit research in Scotland, with the aim of addressing some of the highlighted challenges and to ensure any solution was fit for the future.

This work rehearsed the shortcomings of the existing legal and commissioning arrangements and explored how these might best be addressed. The Board reached consensus on the need to place the current national arrangements supporting cross-sectoral research on a more sustainable and formal footing and to ensure the service model within this possesses the necessary resources, skills and infrastructure to meet changes to demand, technology and legislation. It was agreed that a key priority would be provision of a single-entry point for researchers and offering a seamless data access pathway, by bringing together and coordinating the various moving parts of the researcher access journey, including the commissioned services.

A Strategic Outline Case (SOC) was developed, which explored an initial long list of options to determine the purpose and feasibility of establishing RDS. This was refined in the OBC and again in this FBC.

The strategic objective is that the future offering from Scotland becomes much stronger, with public benefit research undertaken at scale. The following section outlines the model proposed under RDS.

Research Data Scotland – Mission Statement

Research Data Scotland will provide a service for accessing public sector datasets that have the potential to save time, money, and lives. It will offer safe, secure and cost effective access to data for research, innovation and investment by enabling its users to deliver insight and understanding that will help create a more successful country through increased wellbeing, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and improving the health and social care of the nation. We will work collaboratively with data controllers and users to develop the service while building trust and support from the public.

RDS Seven Founding Principles

To support the achievement of this mission, RDS will be predicated on seven key principles:

1. RDS will only enable access to data for research that is for the public good

2. RDS will ensure that researchers and RDS staff can only access unconsented data once an individual's personal identity has been removed

3. RDS will ensure that all data about people, businesses or places is always kept in a controlled and secured environment

4. RDS will only create a dataset if it is requested for a research programme or study that is in the public good

5. All income that RDS generates will be re-invested into services to help researchers continue to access data

6. RDS will secure a share of commercial benefits from any firms that access our public data, ensuring any benefits are returned into public services

7. RDS will be transparent about what data it provides access to and how it is being used for public benefit.

What RDS will do and deliver

RDS will provide a 'one-stop-shop' for access to a range of services and resources aimed at supporting access to data about people, places and business in Scotland.

It will:

  • Deliver a service for researchers, assisting them with research design and providing secure access to public sector datasets and those that are "linkage ready" datasets, with the flexibility to link to other data where required
  • Help facilitate the creation of "linkage ready" versions of high value datasets and provision of key metadata and data access criteria for each dataset
  • Commission and monitor an IT infrastructure to securely transfer, store and provide secure access to datasets, allocating resources to three services: high performance computing; indexing; and, customer support
  • Stay in touch with technical and methodological developments to continuously improve the service seeking ongoing feedback on performance and progress from stakeholders.

RDS will build upon our regional and national data informatics expertise to:

  • Enhance the eDRIS service that already delivers hundreds of health and non-health data access requests and linkage projects each year
  • Utilise the Edinburgh International Data Facility (EIDF) being developed at the University of Edinburgh's EPCC
  • Use expertise for data indexing that exists at NRS
  • Build on the national data infrastructure being developed by SG: the underpinning of data policies, standards, legislation, approaches to ethics and information governance, and arrangements for cyber resilience
  • Work to make our National and Regional Data Safe Havens interoperable.
  • Develop data services that further improve public wellbeing, system efficiency or user experience.

While longer term, it will be important to use data from both public and private sectors in research, our initial focus will be on getting arrangements working well for data collected by any part of the public sector providing services to people in Scotland, and should cover both linked and standalone de-identified datasets. There must be secure and carefully controlled access for different types of users from various sectors (NHS, SG, academics, third sector and industry).

Building upon existing arrangements, critical success factors for the RDS service are to:

  • Have the support of the public, acting in an open and transparent way
  • Deliver value for money
  • Improve the service quality to users, both delivering faster and more reliably, responding to the needs of different types of user
  • Foster strong relationships with data controllers, acting under clear and consistent IG processes
  • Comply with all legal requirements and protect the privacy of citizens and businesses
  • Build upon the 5 safes principles used in data linkage (safe projects, people, settings, data and outputs).

Trustworthiness will be at the heart of everything RDS does and this includes:

  • Maintaining the security and privacy of unconsented data by removing personal identifiers
  • Ensuring data is accessed in a very secure place
  • Only allowing access to accredited researchers where linked datasets are required.

Benefits of RDS and Spending Objectives

RDS will address many of the current challenges inherent in accessing data for research. It will also strengthen institutional capability, investment and profile, enabling it to work with other public sector partners on these issues.

  • RDS will be able to commission services in its own right. This will improve co-ordination and promote a more effective and efficient system
  • The establishment of RDS will address the issue of service quality, working to improve the end to end user journey, addressing strengths and weaknesses of current processes
  • RDS will also facilitate the sharing of information about what data is available and the quality of that data via an interactive website and service
  • It will provide underpinning investment for research using linked datasets at greater scale than the current model delivers – allowing a greater number of linkage projects each year with projects progressing more quickly.

What will a successful RDS look like?

The RDS team and its stakeholder partners agree that the following indicators will demonstrate successful delivery against scope:

  • Service – consistency in the level and quality of service
  • Safety & security – compliance with legal, IG and ICT requirements
  • Public trust & transparency – people trust their data is used appropriately
  • How people's data is processed will be clear and readily understandable by users, providers of services, and the public at large
  • Timeliness – data access is streamlined and efficient
  • Sustainability – the new model being operationally and financially sustainable
  • Cost effectiveness – efficient use of resources. Value for Money (VfM) will be taken into account when making decisions, and allocating roles, responsibilities and resources amongst service delivery partners
  • Accountability – RDS held to account through its own governance as well as through external scrutiny and audit, adopting a strategic, proportionate and risk-based approach.

Business Needs – Responding to Covid 19 Research Requirements

The vision for RDS is for a partnership, initially between SG, PHS and the University of Edinburgh, which accelerates the realisation of public value and economic advantage through data driven research and innovation. Shortcomings of the current data access and linkage service arrangements are likely to become more acute over time. The establishment of RDS future-proofs capability for both data linkage and non-linkage projects, addressing future business needs by thinking longer term about service requirements, resource, investment and infrastructure.

Present health challenges reinforce the need for a more strategic approach at a time where data about people, places and businesses has never been more important, supporting Government in assessing the full impact of Covid 19; evaluating strategies for re-opening the nation; and safeguarding people's health and wellbeing.

RDS will provide a single system approach to realising greater social benefits (via research) from existing public sector datasets, bringing these together in novel ways to respond to new research questions and gaps. It is appreciably a lengthy journey to source, clean, link and assemble data for individual research projects and there are clear gains to be had from coordinating this work to serve many users, thereby realising/recouping the investment in data quality, curation and service development.

Public sector data possesses some of the attributes of a public good[7] making it unlikely that the service of RDS will be provided by the market at the scale required to realise full social and economic benefit – this highlights the market failure. So RDS facilitates the unlocking of this potential, enabling research and acting as a trusted institution that bears risk (reputational, privacy, financial, security, cyber).

Establishing RDS will also harness the potential of the Edinburgh City Deal to foster innovation and development in Scotland and will support our ambition to make Scotland a data destination, attracting inward investment which is currently going elsewhere.

RDS Delivery Programme

The RDS Delivery Programme comprises six integrated elements, each with a separate delivery work-stream.

1. Public engagement and provision of clear information to citizens about the use of public sector data in Scotland

2. Transparent IG processes and procedures, these must incorporate public sector data controllers' requirements

3. Provision of a secure de-identification and data linkage service

4. Provision of a secure high performance computing environment

5. Provision of a one-stop-shop user service

6. High quality data assets.

These expectations will be delivered via a programme of activities covering:

  • Service
  • Public trust and transparency
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Commercial and procurement
  • Safety and security
  • Financial
  • Accountability
  • Legislation.

The development of RDS is a specific part of the SG's Programme for Government[8].

Strategic Risks

The RDS project will face several strategic risks including:

  • Service – complexity of the 'as is' model and a lack of widespread understanding as to how it works. Work has been undertaken to understand the current access journey, and service redesign will be central to the operations of RDS. Stakeholder engagement will be an important means of ensuring consistency with the level and quality of service and confidence with the new process, whilst ensuring all data access is streamlined and efficient
  • Public trust and transparency – people must trust that their data is used appropriately; how data will be processed will be made clear and transparent through public engagement with users and providers of the service as well as the public at large
  • Ensuring cost effectiveness – resources need to be reviewed to ensure value for money is taken into account during decision making, allocation of roles, responsibility and resource capacity
  • Commercial and procurement – the model must be sustainable operationally and financially, and must adhere to procurement legislation. An overview of the likely procurement arrangements for the preferred option is included in the Commercial Case
  • Safety and security – as data will be fundamental to the role of RDS, sensitivity and transparency are required, and concerns from data controllers regarding privacy, security, data storage and sharing need to be managed; Information governance must be of the highest standard.
  • Financial – developing, implementing and supporting RDS requires agreement on longer-term funding models. That model needs to be acceptable to all key stakeholders whilst also delivering VfM. The proposed model is documented in the Financial Case
  • Accountability – RDS will be held to account through external scrutiny and audit adopting a strategic, proportionate and risk-based approach; the RDS board will include independent and partner representatives
  • Legislation – (UK and Scottish) RDS will liaise with legal teams and other stakeholders to consider perceived legislative or statutory constraints, and follow-up action where needed
  • Covid 19 – key staff across the stakeholder organisations have been diverted to responding to the pandemic over the short and medium term, and sourcing backfill staff remains an issue.

Specific transition risks have been included in a risk management plan included in Appendix Three and this will be refined further during the transition phase.

Constraints and Dependencies

Legislation

RDS will operate within a framework of regulations governing the use and processing of personal data for research; (Digital Economy Act 2017), physical and cyber security, data protection legislation (Data Protection Act 2018, UK GDPR), and other legal codes (Human Rights Law, Human Tissue Act), as well as the common law duty of confidentiality.

Covid 19

A key dependency is the development of the Covid 19 Research Data Service, which has been brought together from across the existing service partners. The need to urgently address priority Covid 19 research projects has drawn on existing resources and people in the short term, displacing other activity that would have taken place in its absence. While this is inevitable, there will need to be some form of de-brief and review to re-consider funding requirements in order to ensure service transformation work is progressed.

A wider Covid 19 Data & Intelligence Network across the Scottish public sector is overseeing the development of a strategy to address the data requirements for the pandemic, covering both use for research and for service delivery and operations, including the IG and information assurance frameworks for making the data available via bespoke infrastructure.

It will be important to seek clarity from service partners and stakeholders in SG and more widely about how this work interacts with RDS; where this network addresses some of the identified challenges and where it may introduce new tensions.

ADR-Scotland, Edinburgh South East Scotland City Deal

Two other key initiatives will support the delivery of RDS:

The first is partnership with Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK), which is the UK wide data acquisition and research programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Its aim is to develop capacity and capabilities that support innovative and cutting edge research in the public interest using existing administrative data sources. The ADR UK investment in Scotland is administered through the Administrative Data Research – Scotland (ADR-S) partnership.

The ADR delivery team within SG has been designing and building a new method for linking personal data within the Scottish National Safe Haven. Working with partners from the University of Edinburgh and eDRIS (part of Public Health Scotland) a new ingest process has been designed to securely hold and manage a wide range of datasets from across the Scottish public sector.

Secondly, the investment into data-driven innovation through the Edinburgh & South East Scotland City Region Deal and partnership with the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) will ensure RDS can harness wider resources and secure the momentum for a wider partnership between public sector and academia, building on existing data infrastructure, and Scotland's reputation for how we manage and use data and trustworthiness in what we do.

Both the ADR-S programme and the the Edinburgh & South East Scotland City Region Deal taken together will kick-start and support the delivery of a new data linkage user service provided through RDS.

Conclusion

The existing services and investment supporting public benefit research in Scotland have delivered valuable insight through ground-breaking programmes, embedding a culture of evidence-based policy making and extending our understanding of the most complex of public policy issues facing Scotland.

However the contractual and financial arrangements that supported the initial phase of delivery of the partnership over the last seven years require to be formalised in order to take advantage of the scale of opportunity now facing Scotland. This requires a step change to the way services are supported and contracted for; and to the way the system, and its parts, work towards shared and agreed collective outcomes.

We need to place these arrangements on a more formal footing, to attract significant new investment and promote a more efficient and scaled-up model that can respond to future needs. The opportunity cost of not responding to this growing demand for change and reform is significant – including both the direct impacts on research and public services – and the indirect impacts on the Scottish economy if a healthy and growing data innovation sector fails to take off at scale.

A Ministerial commitment in the 2019 Programme for Government, the establishment of RDS will provide a researcher support service across the whole public sector and ensure that the service is sustainable and resilient.

Contact

Email: researchdata@gov.scot

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