Background & History
The evolution of SeRP:
The Health Informatics Research Unit (HIRU) was launched at Swansea University in November 2006. Core funding was provided by Health & Care Research Wales. HIRU was led by Professors David Ford and Ronan Lyons.
The SAIL Databank pilot study. With approval of Health and Care Research Wales and in partnership with a few data providers, a pilot study was conducted in the local area around Swansea in West Wales using Patient Episode Database Wales (PEDW) of in-patient stays, GP data from practices in the area, and Local Authority social services data. The results of the pilot were used to develop and refine methods of data extraction, transportation, storage and analysis, and to build a prototype solution.
A robust governance model is established with privacy by design. Principles:
- secure data transportation
- reliable record matching
- anonymisation & encryption of identifiable data
- disclosure control
- controlling data access
- scrutiny of proposal and results
- external IG verification
A formal process for obtaining permission for data usage from participating organisations was established. We developed a formal partnership with NWIS as the Trusted Third Party (TTP) for SAIL Databank. Prior to national roll-out, we met and consulted with wide-ranging government, regulatory and professional agencies on the acceptability of a data linkage system. A small team of approximately 10 staff including the directors was established to design, manage and operate SAIL Databank and its technological underpinnings.
The Birth of SeRP.
Until 2011, data could only be accessed on site. As the user base expanded, we needed a more practical solution. SeRP was developed and implemented to provide a secure virtual environment and remote desktop protocol so that data can be accessed safely anywhere in the world. This attracted more data users and greater investment, including multi-million pound centres such as the MRC-funded CIPHER and the ESRC-funded ADRC.
Recognising the wider market opportunities, SeRP had by now proliferated from SAIL Databank, taking its first steps on a journey to becoming the complete solution that it is today.
SeRP achieved the prestigious ISO27001 certification in 2015. This was thanks to funding that was secured for a new Data Science Building (DSB), a world-class centre in eHealth and administrative data research, training and development with powerful, robust, state of the art data linkage and analysis facilities. It opened in summer 2015 and brings a multitude of Centres of Excellence together under one roof, enabling researchers to work together to unleash the potential of large scale data to conduct powerful new research. The 2900sqm research facility was made possible by the funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Welsh Government.
Population Data Science (formerly Health Informatics) Group at Swansea University has been custodian of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. Building on from the success of SAIL Databank, SeRP was created to host new collections of data. Now a separate entity, SeRP is a high powered, safe, e-research platform approved to international security standards. It is robust and flexible as it can be configured to meet the needs of each project owner, according to the official permissions they have in place to hold the data. This is an area in within Population Data Science that has considerable expertise, and it means that organisations can carry out research safely without having to set up a secure platform themselves. SeRP now provides a secure environment to host data for collaborative research programmes and researchers anywhere in the world.