Professor David Ford is professor of informatics at Swansea University and director of Population Data Science based in Swansea University Medical School.
He is also the co-founder and director of the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank, and the Secure e-Research Platform (SeRP), which is increasingly used by researchers and data custodians around the world to safely curate and share data.
“Our Population and Data Science group’s special interest is improving the way in which data collected by public services – central and local government, national agencies, and the NHS – can be better used within government and more widely by the research community in the UK and beyond.
These data, when linked together and analysed carefully, can provide enormously potent insights that can lead to real improvement in people’s lives.
Covid-19 has been a global tragedy, but it has emphasised to many, including the public, politicians and those that head public service organisations, that good quality, well curated, timely data is essential.
The SAIL Databank has become known as an archetype of good practice, its model copied many times across the world, and the technology we have developed to support its operations – the Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP) - has been shared and used widely in the UK and internationally.
Developing SAIL as Wales’ national platform for safe data re-use has been hard work, but it now provides its services well beyond Wales, as well as curating data from right across public service.
Using public data for public good has been a crusade of mine for more than 20 years. Critical to increasing the amount of data linked together and available, is ensuring that public trust is maintained throughout.
A huge part of my work has involved developing state-of-the-art approaches to deal with potentially sensitive personal data such that we can guarantee privacy and safety. Alongside this, we do our best to demonstrate that using data in this way is effective, that positive change for people on the street can and will occur.”