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Public involvement & engagement in the work of a data safe haven: a case study of the SAIL Databank

Lay Summary



The SAIL Databank is a data safe haven established in 2007 at Swansea University (Wales). It was set up to create new opportunities for research using routinely-collected health and other public service datasets in linkable anonymised form. SAIL forms the bedrock of other Population Data Science initiatives made possible by the data and safe haven environment.


The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of public involvement & engagement in connection with the SAIL Databank and related Population Data Science initiatives.


We have a public involvement & engagement policy for SAIL in the context of Population Data Science. We established a Consumer Panel to provide advice on the work of SAIL and associated initiatives, including on proposed uses of SAIL data. We reviewed the topics discussed and provide examples of advice to researchers. We carried out a survey with members on their experiences of being on the Panel and their perceptions of the work of SAIL. We have a programme of wider public engagement and provide illustrations of this work.


We summarise what this paper adds and some lessons learned. In the rapidly developing area of Population Data Science it is important that people feel welcome, that they are encouraged to ask questions and are provided with digestible information and adequate consideration time. Citizens have provided us with valuable anticipated and unanticipated opinions and novel viewpoints. We seek to take a pragmatic approach, prioritising the communication modes that allow maximum public input commensurate with the purpose of the activity.


This paper has set out our policy, rationale, scope and practical approaches to public involvement & engagement for SAIL and our related Population Data Science initiatives. Although there will be jurisdictional, cultural and organizational differences, we believe that the material covered in this paper will be of interest to other data focused enterprises across the world.


Jones K, Heys S, Thompson R, Cross L, Ford D.

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