As long-term initiatives designed to reap the benefits of the UK’s capacity to produce high-quality clinical data begin to bear fruit and impending changes in the healthcare landscape of the UK loom large there has been a renewed interest in cataloguing the clinical datasets which exist in the UK and realising their potential to inform not only commissioning and service delivery but also biomedical research.
Many hear ‘Informatics’ and think immediately of the ‘omics world (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics) and the issues surrounding the production and analysis of the vast volumes of data required in these areas. In these fields adversity has bred innovation and they are now comparatively advanced in terms of data storage, access, sharing and analysis. They can boast a sophisticated range of tools and technologies and a wide scope of available training.
Clinical data, however, is an equally vital resource for research often unlocking the significance of molecular data (correlating anomalies at the genetic level with survival and response to treatment, for example) and of enormous research potential in its own right but the informatics landscape for this kind of data is far more fragmented.
Several initiatives have now turned their focus to clinical data and the wealth of it which exists in the UK. Many of these focus on delivering information to the research community about the clinical data resources which are available but we are also starting to see the development of initiatives seeking to enable linkage of these datasets in novel ways so as to dramatically enhance their research potential.
These initiatives, which we will be looking at in turn and in detail on this blog, are covered in the NCRI Informatics Initiative Spring 2011 Newsletter