Pioneering Population Data Science for Public Good

We are pioneering the science of data about people across a range of data-intensive initiatives.  By uncovering insights hidden deep within a range of population data resources. Our work leads to advances in health and other public service delivery, influencing policy and practice to improve care of patients and population wellbeing. 

We do this through our in-house technology - Secure e-Research Platform (SeRP) - a safe and secure environment that is accredited to the highest international standards for an Information Security Management System (ISO 27001 Certified: IS632731), accredited by UK Statistics Authority, and NHS Digital Data Security and Protection Toolkit (Organisation code: 8WG95). As a result, we are entrusted by organisations like the NHS and many others to securely store, manage and analyse extremely rich sources of health and population data through SeRP, enabling researchers to answer important questions for the benefit of society. 

Researchers discussing paper

We use High Performance Computing to enable research using complex data types such as imaging and genetic data. This capability facilitates projects involving Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Our state-of-the-art data linkage and data management mechanisms also highlight data irregularities and improves the quality and consistency of health and other population data for research. 

An initial £8 million of funding from the Welsh Government’s Health and Care Research Wales, we have attracted various external awards from a wide range of prestigious research funders, totalling over £85 million in recent years. Ranging from UK and Welsh Government Research bodies such as UKRI, the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, to charities and the Welsh Health Boards, some of the charities we are working with include the MS Society, the British Heart Foundation and the Nuffield Foundation

Areas of Research Focus

Our ten research centres of excellence have a direct impact on public policy and therefore on population health - helping to shape decisions that affect the wellbeing of millions. We are focused on delivering a world-class technology infrastructure to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing today’s society - creating a global research ecosystem with the potential to produce educational, environmental, economic, and societal impact.

We are also home to the International Journal of Population Data Science - the only electronic, open access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to all aspects of population data science research, development and evaluation.

Research Outcomes

We are home to a range of world-leading research projects. These projects use the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank to access, analyse and act upon anonymised data at population level, which produce findings that inform policymakers at all levels.

Our research programme in Population Data Science has led to:

Research talking to results

The ‘One Wales’ response to COVID-19

One Wales brings together cross-institutional teams of experts from across Wales (colleagues from within the Population Data Science with Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales Informatics Service) resulting in an agile and responsive approach to tackling data analysis and intelligence generation in order to provide timely evidence to inform policy and practice to tackle the epidemic and its impact in the UK. Find out more on how our research is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asthma Research

Adult using an Inhaler

‘Nature’ study offers new hope in allergy treatment

Our international collaborative study, published in Nature, examined pathways that are important in allergic diseases such as asthma. Drugs that block immunoglobulin E (IgE) are used to treat asthma and other allergic diseases, but traditional genetic association studies have failed to identify the pathways that regulate IgE in the allergic response. Our study identifies several novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for allergic diseases. The three top sites identified accounted for a tenfold higher variance in IgE compared with traditional genome-wide studies. Our ongoing collaborations are now focusing on the role of bacteria and their products in severe asthma.

Asthma sufferers in deprived areas have increased risk of death

This study looked at over 100,000 people with treated asthma across Wales over five years by probing routinely collected primary and secondary care data from within SAIL Databank.  By linking data from 2013 to 2017, we investigated the link between GP care data, emergency hospital admissions, prescriptions and asthma deaths together with geographical and socioeconomic measures for ranked areas of deprivation. The study published by PLOS Medicine shows that people with asthma in the most deprived areas in Wales were 50% more likely to be admitted to hospital and to die from asthma compared with those in the least deprived areas. They were also found to have a poor balance of essential asthma medications that help prevent asthma attacks.

Groundbreaking research links schizophrenia genetic liability and poor health

This research broke new ground by examining the association between genetic predisposition to schizophrenia and poorer physical health by linking genetic data to routine data in the Secure Anonymise Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. The research team found that individuals with schizophrenia had increased rates of neurodevelopmental disorders (epilepsy, intellectual disability and congenital disorders), smoking, type 2 diabetes mellitus and ischaemic heart disease compared with the general population. However, the increased risks of those illness may not be due to schizophrenia genetic liability.

Child on swing with parents on swing

Separated parents using family courts more likely to live in deprived areas

Our report on Uncovering private family law: Who’s coming to court in England published by Nuffield Foundation shows that separated parents in England who depend on the family courts to resolve private disputes over child arrangements are likely to live in the country’s most deprived areas. The study also reveals a clear north-south divide in the number of private law applications being made, with rates highest in the north.  The study used population-level data, routinely collected by Cafcass UK and available in the Secure Anonymise Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank.

Affiliated Researchers

Professor Sinead Brophy

Professor (CIPHER), Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 602058
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Gwyneth Davies

Professor, Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 513067
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor David Ford

Professor of Informatics, Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 513404

Professor Ann John

Professor, Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 602568
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Kerina Jones

Professor, Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 602764
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor Ronan Lyons

Clinical Professor of Public Health, Health Data Science
+44 (0) 1792 513484
Available For Postgraduate Supervision

Professor John Williams

Professor Emeritus (Medicine), Medical School - School
Available For Postgraduate Supervision