The Population Data Science group, formerly known as the Health Informatics group at Swansea University Medical School, is at the forefront of the increasingly important field of Population Data Science – the science of data about people.
Population Data Science is a growing and multi-disciplinary field, which focuses on collections of individuals, and the biological, economic, social, and environment experiences that shape their lives, their health and their wellbeing.
We are proud to be pioneering this science across a range of data-intensive initiatives hosted at Swansea University Medical School. Our group led by Professors David Ford and Ronan Lyons, works locally, across the UK, and internationally to deliver a range of infrastructural, analytical and public engagement initiatives for the safe, socially-acceptable and effective use of population data for public benefit.
Thanks to an initial £8 million of funding from the Welsh Government’s Health and Care Research Wales, we have attracted numerous external awards from a wide range of prestigious research funders, totalling over £80 million in recent years.
The Directors & Professorial Leads
Professor David Ford
His area of expertise lies in health informatics, eHealth, health services, population health, data protection and privacy protection, Big Data analytics, and administrative data.
His research interests focus on developing new ways of harnessing the potential of routinely-collected information from healthcare and other public sector organisations, including academia and government.
His team develops carefully designed socio-technical systems that can overcome the barriers to data sharing. These include a focus on automation and machine approaches to reduce workload, increase efficiency and reduce turnaround times; systems to automate probabilistic data linkage; and the creation of high-trust environments under full governance control, to reduce risk and increase transparency during data sharing activities.
He is Principal Investigator and Director of the Administrative Data Research Wales (ADR Wales), an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) investment as part of its £65 million UK Big Data initiative.
He is also Principal Investigator of the UK Multiple Sclerosis Register, Joint Principal Investigator of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO) data partnership; Principal Investigator and Director of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank; Co-Investigator of Health Data Research UK; Chief Data Officer for BREATH – Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health; and many more others. He has received research grants and consultancy contracts valuing over £65m in recent years.
Among his other senior roles, he is also a member of numerous committees and national bodies relating to health informatics and health-related research and is past Chairman and a current Director of MediWales, representing the medical technology sector of Wales. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA). He is also a member of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) Scientific Advisory Committee, Toronto.
He has published over 40 research articles, including:
Selected relevant publications:
- A Position Statement on Population Data Science; International Journal of Population Data Science 2018
- Challenges and Potential Opportunities of Mobile Phone Call Detail Records in Health Research; JMIR mHealth and uHealth 2018
- The UK Secure eResearch Platform for public health research: a case study; The Lancet
- Cohort Profile: A national population-based e-cohort of people with psychosis (PsyCymru) linking prospectively ascertained phenotypically rich and genetic data to routinely collected records; Schizophrenia Research 2015
- A Large-Scale Study of Anxiety and Depression in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Survey via the Web Portal of the UK MS Register; PLOS ONE 2014
- A case study of the Secure Anonymous Information Linkage (SAIL) Gateway: A privacy-protecting remote access system for health-related research and evaluation; Journal of Biomedical Informatics 2014
Professor Ronan Lyons
He is a public health physician and epidemiologist with more than 30 years’ experience of clinical medicine, public health and health informatics in Ireland and the UK.
His research interests focus on the secondary use of health information to support the targeting and evaluation of health and non-health service interventions to improve prevention, care and rehabilitation. After working in emergency departments for a number of years, he has an abiding interest in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries.
Ronan is Site Director for Wales and Northern Ireland, Research Director and National Lead for Improving Public Health with Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), a £50+ million investment by UK research funders, led by the Medical Research Council.
He is also Co-Principal Investigator and Co-Director of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank (Health and Care Research Wales), Associate Director of the Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ESRC), and Associate Director of the MRC’s Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) Data Portal. His current grant portfolio exceeds £45 million.
Other senior roles include: Adjunct Professor at Monash University, Australia; Honorary Consultant with Public Health Wales NHS Trust; and Chair of the International Collaborative Effort on Injury Statistics and Methods (US CDC).
He has published 256 research articles. His top six research publications from the past five year are:
- Using data linkage to measure the population health impact of non-healthcare interventions; The Lancet 2014
- Health impact, and economic value, of meeting housing quality standards: a retrospective longitudinal data linkage study; Public Health Research 2018
- Risk of emergency hospital admissions associated with mental disorders and alcohol misuse in the household: an electronic birth cohort study; Lancet Public Health 2018
- Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 333 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 195 countries and territories; Lancet 2017
- Disability weights for injury burden: person-reported results from the prospective, multi-national, Injury-VIBES Cohort; Bull World Organisation 2016
- Change in alcohol outlet density and alcohol-related harm to population health (CHALICE): a comprehensive record-linked database study in Wales; Public Health Research 2016
Professor Sinead Brophy
Her area of expertise lies in population health, epidemiology, Big Data analytics and linking research data (cohort, trials, surveys) with routine health and administrative data. She is a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) of the MHRA (CPRD) and training Lead in Wales/NI HDRUK.
Her research interests focus on using routine linked data to better inform healthy development and healthy working life research. To take a life course (from birth, to school, to work, to retirement) approach to population health. She is especially interested in evidence based interventions and improving the use of existing data including work on detecting and examining multi-morbidity in children, predicting diagnosis of inflammatory disease, with a special interest in arthritis.
She has published over 176 research articles and actively publishes articles in The Conversation , including:
Conversation Articles :
Children who have afternoon school breaks are fitter but need a supportive environment. https://theconversation.com/children-who-have-afternoon-school-breaks-are-fitter-but-need-a-supportive-environment-122229
Eating disorders: early warning signs identified. https://theconversation.com/eating-disorders-early-warning-signs-identified-119886
Achieving then failing in primary school is a sign of future teenage depression https://theconversation.com/achieving-then-failing-in-primary-school-is-a-sign-of-future-teenage-depression-90982
Antipsychotics used to manage autism and intellectual disability behaviour can have serious side effects – new study https://theconversation.com/antipsychotics-used-to-manage-autism-and-intellectual-disability-behaviour-can-have-serious-side-effects-new-study-90983
Babies with healthier diets are more active and sleep better – new findings https://theconversation.com/babies-with-healthier-diets-are-more-active-and-sleep-better-new-findings-109477
Six ways to get teenagers more active – suggested by the teens themselves https://theconversation.com/six-ways-to-get-teenagers-more-active-suggested-by-the-teens-themselves-90980
Outdoor learning has huge benefits for children and teachers — so why isn’t it used in more schools? https://theconversation.com/outdoor-learning-has-huge-benefits-for-children-and-teachers-so-why-isnt-it-used-in-more-schools-118067
Recent research articles not also published in the conversation:
Mild-to-moderate renal pelvis dilatation identified during pregnancy and hospital admissions in childhood: An electronic birth cohort study in Wales, UK. Hurt L, Wright M, Demmler J, VanDerVoort J, Morris S, Brook F, Tucker D, Chapman M, Francis NA, Daniel R, Fone D, Brophy S, Paranjothy S. PLoS Med. 2019 Jul 30;16(7):e1002859. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002859. eCollection 2019 Jul.
Cardiovascular risk factors predicting cardiac events are different in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and psoriasis. Cooksey R, Brophy S, Kennedy J, Gutierrez FF, Pickles T, Davies R, Piguet V, Choy E. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2018 Dec;48(3):367-373. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2018.03.005.
Educational Attainment at Age 10-11 Years Predicts Health Risk Behaviors and Injury Risk During Adolescence. Demmler JC, Hill RA, Rahman MA, Bandyopadhyay A, Healy MA, Paranjothy S, Murphy S, Fletcher A, Hewitt G, John A, Lyons RA, Brophy ST. J Adolesc Health. 2017 Aug;61(2):212-218. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.02.003. Epub
Development of an algorithm for determining smoking status and behaviour over the life course from UK electronic primary care records. Atkinson MD, Kennedy JI, John A, Lewis KE, Lyons RA, Brophy ST; DEMISTIFY Research Group.
BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2017 Jan 5;17(1):2. doi: 10.1186/s12911-016-0400-6.
Risk of Adverse Outcomes for Older People with Dementia Prescribed Antipsychotic Medication: A Population Based e-Cohort Study. Dennis M, Shine L, John A, Marchant A, McGregor J, Lyons RA, Brophy S. Neurol Ther. 2017 Jun;6(1):57-77. doi: 10.1007/s40120-016-0060-6.
Professor Gwyneth Davies
Professor Gwyneth Davies is Clinical Deputy Head (joint) of Swansea University Medical School and leads the UK Postgraduate Training Programme for Asthma Researchers (Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research).
Gwyneth’s research interests span translational work in asthma ‘omics through to population health research. Current work centres on respiratory informatics, with high impact publications relating to the burden and costs of asthma and the use of electronic health records. Gwyneth is founding Director of the Wales Asthma Observatory within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank and collaborates across the UK and internationally in the interrogation of routine datasets to examine respiratory disease. The aim is to harness the potential of big data to target and evaluate interventions in order to improve respiratory health and reduce inequalities in care.
Collaborations on Covid-19 include the COVIDENCE national longitudinal study and national clinical trials.
Professor Davies is an Honorary Respiratory Consultant at Swansea Bay University Health Board where she leads the Asthma service, following training in Wales, London and New Zealand. She has been awarded a Bronze Clinical Excellence Award by the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards (ACCEA), 2019-2024. She was awarded a Scadding-Morriston Davies UK Joint Fellowship in Respiratory Medicine undertaken at the National Heart and Lung Institute and Royal Brompton Hospital, London.
Gwyneth has a young family and has been supported by flexible working which has allowed her to develop her career whilst accommodating family life.
Professor Julian Halcox
His research program addresses the understanding and prevention of cardiovascular disease using a wide range of clinical research methods including non-invasive vascular imaging, biomarkers, clinical trials and real-world population healthcare datasets. Within Data Sciences he is the lead for cardiovascular disease research for the HDR-UK research Centre in Swansea and heads up an expanding cardiovascular outcome research group. His team is focusing on the use of routinely held data to explore drivers of adverse outcomes in people with and at increased risk of cardiovascular disease in order to identify opportunities to improve cardiovascular health at an individual and population level. He and his team have a strong collaborative research network across Swansea University (SUMS, HHS, Engineering) and more widely in the UK and Internationally.
He is Academic Lead for the Welsh Cardiovascular Society; Chair of the All-Wales Working Group for CVD Prevention; a member of the Cochrane Heart Group Editorial Board; member of the Medical Sciences and Review Committee for HEART-UK; and Scientific Director and committee member of the Charity “Heart Research Wales”.
Professor Ann John
Ann leads a research programme with a focus on applied mental health informatics leading a cross disciplinary team of data scientists, engineers, computer scientists, psychologists and clinicians. She is passionate about the translation of research into policy and practice. She is co-director of the Cochrane satellite for suicide and self-harm prevention and a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and Learned Society for Wales.
Professor Kerina Jones
The Population Data Science initiatives hosted at Swansea University are world renowned. Kerina is internationally acknowledged as having an essential and unique leadership role in these initiatives, by focusing on innovative data governance models and public engagement to enable person-based data to be used effectively and safely. This is a rapidly developing field with changes to regulatory & governance frameworks and evolving societal perceptions. Kerina leads an innovative research programme centred on IG&PE that includes work to inform cross-centre data sharing and how emerging data types, such as genetic data, and free-text data, can be used safely in conjunction with health and administrative records.
Kerina led the active Innovative Governance working group of the UK Farr Institute from 2013 until its conclusion in 2018. At the outset, the balance was tipped towards being overly protective at the expense of innovation and learning to improve health through population data science. This left both regulators and the research community confused and ill-equipped to work harmoniously when they needed clarity and collaboration. Her group pioneered innovative practical solutions for using people’s health data safely and in a socially-acceptable way. The members are held in high esteem and continue to work collaboratively to advise and influence the developing data governance landscape to promote the safe reuse of data.
Kerina is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS), an electronic, open-access, peer-reviewed journal focussing on the science pertaining to population data, and publishing articles on all aspects of research, development and evaluation connected with data about people and populations.
Professor Simon Thompson
Simon is a professor of Health Informatics. He is a systems architect with many years’ experience in the NHS and academia. He is the Chief Technology Officer of a large team of talented and diversely skilled software developers. Simon leads the innovation, design, development and implementation of all SeRP technical system developments. He is responsible for delivering the technical workstream for Swansea University as part of a UK network of e-research centres of excellence and international collaborations.
Professor John Williams
Professor Williams’ main research interests are gastroenterology, health informatics, service delivery, and patient outcomes. He chiefly focuses on better diagnosis, treatments and services – particularly in gastroenterology – and on increasing patient involvement in these processes. He has researched novel means of outpatient service delivery and changing roles in gastrointestinal endoscopy, led multicentre trials in inflammatory bowel disease and used routine data to explore patient outcomes. He has evaluated the fitness for purpose of routinely collected data to support research, audit and professional appraisal, highlighting the need for improvement in the quality of the data recorded in patient records and clinical communications.
From 2001 to 2019 he established and directed the Health Informatics Unit at the Royal College of Physicians where he drove the development of consensus based national standards for the structure and content of patient records and communications, in order to improve document and data quality, and patient safety. He is a founding fellow of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics.
In 2014 Professor Williams received a CBE for services to medicine.
Ashley Akbari is a Senior Research Manager & Data Scientist at Swansea University, Health Data Research UK (HDR-UK) Wales & Northern Ireland , Administrative Data Research (ADR) Wales, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (NFJO) Data Partnership & others. Ashley has experience of working on a variety of data linkage and research projects with a background in computing and various research disciplines which have evolved over time with his experience of working with anonymised data within SAIL Databank since 2008, as well as other data from the UK nations, and as part of projects with the NHS, government, policy and others. Ashley both delivers his own research as well as working with analysts and researchers in both the development and pursuit of their project’s and research, and supports their continued development and training, championing translation of research outcomes into policy across academia, government and the NHS.
Dr Richard Fry
Dr Rich Fry is a Senior Lecturer in GIS and Health Geographies and the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor for the Medical School. Rich graduated with a BSc (Hons) Physical Geography from Swansea before completing an MSc and PhD in GIS and computing at the University of South Wales following some time out in industry. Following a post-doctoral position at the Wales Institute for Socio-Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) he returned to Swansea, joining the Medical School as a Senior Research Officer specialising in GIS and privacy protecting spatial data linkage. Rich currently leads geography and health research for substantive sites including HDR UK Wales and Northern Ireland, ADR Wales and the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing. Rich teaches on several courses including GIS (GEGM22), PM-344 Capstone and PMIM 102 Scientific Computing and Health Care. He is module lead for PMIM502 for Health Data Visualisation.
Dr Lucy Griffiths
Dr Lucy Griffiths is an Associate Professor. She graduated with a BSc (Hons) from the University of Kent before completing an MSc in Health and Exercise Science and a PhD at the University of Bristol. She went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher at University College London for 13 years. During her time in London, Lucy undertook formal training in Epidemiology (MSc) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Lucy’s research largely uses survey and administrative information collected about children and young people, to study a range of individual, social and environmental circumstances that may affect health and health behaviours in these populations. She currently works with the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory; Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre; Health Data Research UK Wales and Northern Ireland; and Administrative Data Research Wales.
Other roles: Honorary Secretary for the Society for Social Medicine and Population Health; ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership Wales Data Science Health and Wellbeing Pathway Convenor; Honorary Researcher at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.
Rod Middleton is Associate Professor, Disease Registers & Data Research in Health Data Science at Swansea.
Rod is Principal Investigator of the United Kingdom MS Register, a nationwide initiative to capture ‘Real world’ data for and about people with Multiple Sclerosis. He has additionally been PI for a number of COVID and Patient reported outcome initiatives across the health data science portfolio. Amongst these are PROMIS, NeurOMS and the Registry Collaboration Network in Secondary Progressive MS.
Rod has a passionate interest in putting patients and participants at the centre of research and is a firm believer that people are the best narrators of their own conditions.
Dr Rhiannon Owen
Rhiannon Owen is Associate Professor of Statistics at Swansea University Medical School. Her main research interests include the development and application of Bayesian methods in Health Technology Assessment, including evidence synthesis, economic decision modelling, analysis of large scale linked electronic health records, clinical trials, and value of information. This work has been and is supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), HDR UK, the Medical Research Council (MRC), and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Rhiannon is a member of the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Technology Appraisal Committee, member of the NICE Decision Support Unit, and Associate Member of the NICE Technical Support Unit. She has extensive experience of cross-sector collaboration including as a consultant, providing methodological and strategic advice to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.
Rhiannon teaches on several courses including PM-344 Capstone, and module lead for Data Analysis for Health and Medical Sciences (PMRM02).