NEWS - The launch of the Researcher Access Service

Researchers from both academia and government are set to benefit from the launch of a brand new, fully digitised platform developed by Research Data Scotland (RDS): the Researcher Access Service.

The Researcher Access Service (RAS) is a digital service that makes it quicker and simpler for approved researchers to access public sector data for research. Developed and managed by Research Data Scotland (RDS), the service enables faster access to public sector datasets held in Scotland’s National Safe Haven – a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) which securely houses some of Scotland’s most useful datasets for research.

Scotland's Public Data

Scotland’s data is often locked away in individual systems across different organisations and is not in a format that makes access or integration easy. As a result, it can often take too long to access the data that we need to answer important research questions, leaving them unanswered or missing opportunities to create innovative, relevant policy that would benefit the population.

The Researcher Access Service streamlines and simplifies the data access process so that researchers can access data faster, leading to more timely insights and enabling decision-makers to base their policies on good quality research and data.

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of RDS, said:

To be innovative and meet today’s challenges, the public sector needs evidence from across a multitude of sectors to help inform decision-making. I’m delighted to mark the first release of the Researcher Access Service, which will make it quicker and simpler to provide streamlined, lawful, fair, and safe access to data at pace for the public good.

Looking to the future

Researchers from approved organisations, such as SCADR can apply to use one or more of the nine datasets - these are some of the most widely used health datasets for use in research, including hospital admissions, prescribing, emergency attendances and births. Further datasets may be added in areas like education, social work, and justice through discussions with data controllers.

Created and managed collaboratively with electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS), which is part of Public Health Scotland and one of RDS’s founding partners, the Researcher Access Service has been designed around the needs of researchers and data users. One clear benefit is the introduction of the first fully digital platform for requesting access to datasets in the Scottish National Safe Haven, enabling researchers to submit and track their application from start to finish via an online portal.

Professor Chris Dibben, Co-Director of ADR Scotland, said:

Applying to use linked administrative data for research has been a complex task involving searching out metadata and filling in forms whilst having nowhere to check on an application's progress. The new Researcher Access Service will be a massive help to researchers, making the application process much more straight forward. This is most welcome and I am sure will encourage more researchers to use administrative data.


Mr Alastair McAlpine, Co-Director of ADR Scotland, said:

We welcome this new service which will speed up the process for researchers and improve the impact that their research has in improving the outcomes of people in Scotland.

Alongside the service, RDS have published updated guidance for researchers on how to access Scottish public sector data and an explainer designed to help the public understand what the Researcher Access Service is and how it works.


This article was published on 29 Apr 2024

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