People Research Data Commons

People Research Data Commons

National-scale data infrastructure for health research and research translation
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About the People Research Data Commons

The ARDC People Research Data Commons (People RDC) is delivering national-scale data infrastructure for health research and translation.

Researchers, innovators and policymakers seek to improve health outcomes for society, and yet the data and digital platforms they need span multiple layers of government, health service operations, health research studies, institutes, facilities and the private sector. The People RDC initiative develops, operates and coordinates national-scale capabilities to support digital health research and translation.

Icons of federal and state governments, health services, industry, and research facilities and institutions

Addressing National Data Challenges

The People RDC engages with all parts of the Australian health system to address some core digital challenges at a national level:

The data that health researchers need is distributed across government, research and health service sectors. Researchers and innovators face challenges knowing whether and where such data exists, and if so, how to access it.

For example, to dynamically update dietary guidelines on stroke management, we want to be sure we have the data we need, that it is governed and standardised for re-use, and that we can find it and request permission to use it.

Health information of patients and research subjects must be kept secure and not disclosed during the process of health research or health service improvement. Data custodians therefore require researchers to use secure environments for data analysis. Researchers don’t always have secure environments for the data they want to share or access, or when such secure environments exist, they can create data silos that hinder national-scale multidisciplinary collaborations.

For example, to transform our understanding of ageing by bringing together scores of longitudinal studies of brain ageing and dementia, we want to know how to give researchers secure access, and what systems and processes need to be in place to respect the privacy of the study participants.

To solve the grand challenges facing society, researchers seek insights by combining data from government, research, and health service providers.  Since these data are collected in a wide range of scientific, business or operational contexts, they use different standards and structures, which makes it difficult for researchers to bring these together.

For example, to improve outcomes for people who suffer traumatic injuries in car accidents, we want to integrate data from the trauma registry, car accident insurance claims, accident and emergency hospital records, ambulance records, research studies and the deaths registry. We need to consider any existing standardisation of data structures across these sources, whether common medical concept definitions are in place, and whether there are common identifiers.

Applying advanced analytics techniques like machine learning to national sensitive data collections across multiple secure data repositories raises data challenges that require innovative solutions.

For example, to support diagnostics and improve survival of cancer patients, we want to consider how nationally distributed machine learning over cancer data and imagery can be established. We want the images to remain securely within clinics and yet provide parameters to a model that is supported by data and coding standards and a well curated reference dataset.

Many of the data challenges in health research arise from the sensitive nature of health data and jurisdictional and regulatory requirements that lead to a heterogenous digital infrastructure ecosystem. The ability to deliver consistent practices, technical interoperability and common standards across this diversity will be a defining feature of the People RDC.

Once developed and implemented, the national capabilities built through these 4 streams of programs will be brought together and applied to improve health services and address specific disease areas.

Get Involved

The ARDC is taking a co-design approach to implementing infrastructure in partnership with stakeholders from all parts of the health system. As a:

Researcher, policymaker or innovator

You can help us:
  • design new digital capability that will help your work
  • identify nationally significant data to target

Health data custodian

You can work with us to:
  • make your content part of the data commons
  • integrate it with secure access and advanced analytics

Technology, service, or infrastructure provider

You can collaborate with us to:
  • establish national interoperability frameworks
  • create a coherent national network of capabilities
Resources for Researchers

Resources for Researchers

The People RDC builds on the ARDC’s experience working in partnerships to deliver digital research infrastructure for health and medical researchers, which has culminated in a wide range of datasets, free tools and upskilling materials. Explore these resources.