A wealth of data is created through health research studies, including information about the people taking part in the research, their health and their response to interventions being studied.
The data collected across studies is valuable for more than just the original piece of research. It is essential for guiding clinical practices, informing the design of new studies, and can be utilised in new analyses to generate new research findings. However, issues of patient privacy and the naturally siloed approaches of research groups and government jurisdictions means that sharing data for these valuable purposes is complex and sometimes impossible.
The ARDC is playing a critical role in partnership with the health research community to synchronise efforts, align approaches and build national data sharing capability.
Our Health Studies Australian National Data Asset (HeSANDA) program is building national infrastructure to allow researchers to access and share data from health studies, including clinical trials, cohort studies and other data valuable for research.
We’re taking an incremental approach to HeSANDA over multiple years. The initial focus is on sharing and reusing data from publicly-funded clinical trials by universities and research organisations. You can find and request access to clinical trial data now via Health Data Australia. We’re now extending our support to cohort studies, clinical registries and other health research areas.
Together with our partners, we’re establishing the national research capability based on the three investment priorities below.
This involves determining the “quality, relevance, consistency and availability” of health research information to maximise its value for secondary uses. The objective is to capture community consensus on the data standards and practices required for a national asset, such as:
- the research purpose and uses of shared health data
- the information and data needed to support those purposes
- the standards and quality required of the data
- appropriate community practices of FAIR data sharing (with specific attention to access arrangements that respect participants, health services, co-investors, research communities, and institutions).
The infrastructure for sharing and requesting clinical trial data is now live at Health Data Australia.
We are investing in a coherent nationally distributed infrastructure. Guided by Data and Policy and Culture development, we’re establishing a network of health research organisations to provide a coordinated set of data services that will facilitate data sharing and reuse. Read more about HeSANDA infrastructure development.
Culture and Policy Development
This involves enabling the culture and policies required to make HeSANDA beneficial for the research and wider communities. We’ll resource the development of a culture and policy plan to address some of the potential obstacles and enablers of this program. This can include:
- supportive and harmonious policy arrangements at institutions, publishers, scholarly societies, and funders
- incentive mechanisms for data providers (codifying expectations for data citation, data collaboration and responsible use)
- skills development for people providing project data on health studies social licence activities such as establishing advisory forums to include consumer and privacy advocates
- raising awareness of the infrastructure and its purpose
- mechanisms to enable ongoing community involvement and ownership of the national asset.
The HeSANDA Network
There are 9 HeSANDA nodes that represent 72 health research organisations across Australia. They are listed below.
- The University of Melbourne (administering organisation)
- Austin Health
- BioGrid Australia
- Centre for Eye Research Australia
- Murdoch Children’s Research Institute & Royal Children’s Hospital
- Northern Health
- PeterMac Cancer Centre
- St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne
- The Royal Melbourne Hospital
- Western Health
- Deakin University (administering organisation)
- Australian Early Psychosis Collaborative Consortium
- Barwon Health
- The University of Melbourne
- Monash University (administering organisation)
- Monash Partners
- Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) (administering organisation)
- Australian & New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG)
- Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG)
- Australia and New Zealand Sarcoma Association (ANZSA)
- Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG)
- Australian & New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate Cancer Trials Group (ANZUP)
- Breast Cancer Trials
- Cancer Symptom Trials (CST) and Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC)
- Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO)
- Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials (MASC Trials)
- Primary Care Collaborative Cancer Clinical Trial Group (PC4)
- Psycho-oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG)
- Thoracic Oncology Group of Australasia (TOGA)
- Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG)
- Menzies School of Health Research (administering organisation)
- Charles Darwin University
- Health Translation Queensland (administering organisation)
- Australasian Kidney Trials Network
- Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners
- Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service
- Central Queensland University
- Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service
- CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre
- Griffith University
- James Cook University
- Mackay Hospital and Health Service
- Mater Misericordiae Ltd
- QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
- Queensland Government Department of Health
- Queensland Government Metro North Hospital and Health Services
- The University of Queensland
- Townsville Hospital and Health Service
- Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre Ltd
- University of the Sunshine Coast
- University Southern Queensland
- South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) (administering organisation)
- Flinders University
- Health Translation SA
- NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at The University of Sydney (administering organisation)
- Cardiovascular Centre of Excellence
- Digital Health CRC
- Institute for Musculoskeletal Health
- Institute of Bone and Joint Research
- Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network
- Sydney Health Partners
- Sydney Local Health District
- The Brain and Mind Centre
- University of Sydney
- Westmead Applied Research Centre
- Westmead Institute for Medical Research
- Woolcock Institute for Medical Research
- Curtin University (administering organisation)
- Child and Adolescent Health Service
- Ear Science Institute Australia
- Edith Cowan University
- Government of Western Australia East Metropolitan Health Service
- Government of Western Australia North Metropolitan Health Service
- Government of Western Australia South Metropolitan Health Service
- Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
- Institute of Respiratory Health
- Lions Eye Institute
- Murdoch University
- The University of Western Australia
- WA Country Health Service
The Advisory Committee for the initiative includes key national health research organisations:
- Australian Clinical Trials Alliance
- Australian Health Research Alliance
- Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry
- Cochrane Australia
- Consumers Health Forum of Australia
- National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
- Population Health Research Network
- Research Australia.
Informed by the NCRIS facilitation process, the HeSANDA initiative implemented an 18-month systematic consultation and co-design process with assistance from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Clinical Trials Alliance, clinical trialists, researchers, health consumers and research institutions, as well as infrastructure providers and policy makers involved in clinical trials research. This established consensus around the purpose, content, requirements and design for a national health data asset to be created through the HeSANDA initiative.
We’re now using that same successful approach to collaborate with researchers working with cohort studies, clinical registries and other study types.
From 2020 to 2023, we focused our work on the clinical trials community. The first consultations were completed in August 2020, and the outcomes of these consultations are detailed in the Development Priorities Consultation Report. These set the direction of the asset based on the data development principles.
A second round of consultations were held with key stakeholders: clinical trialists, research participants, and health consumers. These workshops validated and refined HeSANDA’s approach. The outcomes are detailed in the Stakeholder Consultation Report.
Following the consultation phase, ARDC then collaborated with a network of more than 70 health research organisations to co-design HeSANDA’s national infrastructure. We continue to work with these organisations over the Development phase.
The consultative approach we’ve adopted has produced a set of community and stakeholder-defined Guiding Principles that inform the development process and broader HeSANDA initiative.
Cohort Studies, Clinical Registries and Beyond
Building on the success of our work with the clinical trials community, the ARDC is expanding the HeSANDA program to support even more parts of the health research sector. As of July 2023, we’re consulting with stakeholders from cohort studies and clinical registries on how best to extend the coverage of our infrastructure.
Health data collection is often publicly funded and HeSANDA will add value by ensuring this data is efficiently, safely and widely used by more researchers. This, in turn, will increase the health benefits to all Australians.
The program will increase research impact and integrity by supporting further research, meta-analysis, and clinical guideline development. Creating a national asset from the data outputs of health research projects will maximise the research investment made by schemes such as the NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies program.
Harnessing Australia’s difficult-to-access health research data will bring immense value to health research, maximising the return on investment of past research and allowing future research to build upon it to improve health outcomes for Australians.
While HeSANDA’s primary focus is the academic research sector, the ARDC is growing its digital research services for the medical and health research community. It aims to catalogue and share other types of health and medical data and provide secure data access for clinical trials via the People Research Data Commons. To learn more, register your interest below.
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