COVID-19 is affecting every facet of daily life. Many of the services, processes & events that we often take for granted are now being disrupted, delayed or abandoned altogether.
Despite the pandemic, the team behind SAIL Databank have been working tirelessly to ensure that scientists, researchers and data users continue to do what they do best; using real-world data to examine and determine new ways in which to improve people’s lives.
‘…data is now being made available for research as quickly as 48 hours in some cases.’
With this pandemic now posing one of the greatest health threats of modern times, the SAIL Databank team have been lending their experience and expertise to the national and global response to the outbreak.
The virus and virus-related activity are moving swiftly, so it’s crucial that the research also moves at a pace that stays ahead of the curve. This means that the data available for the science to progress also needs to be promptly available.
The largest contributor of data to SAIL Databank is the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS); A data partner of SAIL Databank since its inception in 2007. NWIS’ role as a ‘Trusted Third Party’ is integral to the data de-identification process. Owing to a longstanding, collaborative and agile partnership, the speed of data transfer has been scaled up. The transfer frequency of vitally important information such as GP data and other datasets has been quickened from quarterly updates to weekly or even daily updates.
‘…as many data access requests from researchers in a week as they would more commonly see in a typical month.’
Data security and a strict set of governance principles are defining characteristics of SAIL Databank. And, of course, these protocols remain water-tight during the pandemic, but the commitment and pragmatism of the SAIL Databank team has meant that data is now being made available for research in as quickly as 48 hours in some cases.
The scale of the problem, and the shear number of research projects being initiated, means that this is only possible if Covid-19 related research is prioritised. By extension, Non-Covid work may be subject to slight delays where research is already underway or postponed if yet to be approved.
This is no easy task. The SAIL Databank team have so far approved and provided support for more than a dozen Covid-specific projects with many more currently being considered by the independent Information Governance Review Panel. In addition, the team are seeing as many data access requests from researchers in a week as they would more commonly see in a typical month. Observations of the SAIL Databank website ‘traffic’ suggests that this trend is likely to continue; in the period since January 2020 the webpage views to apply to work with SAIL Databank has risen by 52% when compared to the same period last year, with an overall increase of 26% across all pages.
“I cannot speak highly enough of my experience in using SAIL.”Dr David McAllister, Glasgow University, author of ‘COVID-19 – exploring the implications of long-term condition type and extent of multimorbidity on years of life lost: a modelling study’
The richness of SAIL Databank enables important research questions to be comprehensively answered. As custodians of a wealth of population-scaled data, some of which reaching back a quarter of a century or more, SAIL Databank provides a powerful research tool by linking new datasets to the existing, routinely collected data.
The monumental efforts of the SAIL Databank team, and those of its data partner NWIS, will be instrumental in producing a large body of research related to Covid-19 that improves our understanding and accelerates our recovery from the pandemic.
BY CHRIS ROBERTS, SWANSEA UNIVERSITY
SAIL Databank is one of the nine Centres of Excellence based in Population Data Science at Swansea University Medical School
Related News Article and Media Coverage