Join the RDS Board of Trustees and help us do data better

Research Data Scotland is seeking to appoint experienced individuals in data control,  research and commissioning in the public and private sector to its Board of Trustees. The successful candidates will bring a deep understanding of the UK research landscape and how to position a service like Research Data Scotland.

You will be heart of the organisation and involved in a decision-making role which will make a real difference to how data is used in Scotland. You should have experience of working at Board level and be confident that you can make a valuable contribution to the work of Research Data Scotland.

If you feel you have the right credentials to add value to the RDS proposition we would be delighted to hear from you.

We have known for a while now that data organised well and used ethically can be a significant force for good that saves time, money and lives. The Covid pandemic has further shown the benefits of decisions steered with good data and research. Being able to bring data around people, places and businesses, around families and households is already proving essential in tackling our big challenges that aren’t organised into discrete activities from single organisations. Yet, much public data is organised that way. 

Research Data Scotland is already starting to enable collaboration on data and research that is spilling out into wider collaborations that are changing lives. It is early and there is much to do to make this collaboration and data-driven innovation systematic. I believe that a high quality board can make the difference to Research Data Scotland reaching its potential and improving the economic, social and environmental wellbeing, not just for Scotland but having a more global impact.

Professor Paul Boyle
Chair, Research Data Scotland

About Research Data Scotland 

Research Data Scotland’s mission is to improve the health, economic, social and environmental wellbeing of Scotland by enabling innovation and research through access to data for research in the public good. It will also aim to attract investment into Scotland by creating the environment supporting ethical and secure data driven research.

This is a “do once for Scotland” approach, drawing together and building upon the talent we have here. RDS builds on the existing data infrastructure in Scotland to offer safe, secure and cost-effective access to data for research, innovation and investment. It is a service for researchers and analysts that, by working in trustworthy ways:

• organising research ready public sector datasets around people, places and businesses, 
• providing a service for secure and cost effective access to those datasets for research in the public good

Research Data Scotland is an organisation that provides system leadership, commissioning partners based on their expertise: National Records of Scotland who use their population records to help securely connect data around people, places and businesses; the Edinburgh International Data Facility at the University of Edinburgh who provide a secure computing infrastructure to hold data and to make it available to researchers; Public Health Scotland who provide the service to researchers to understand their needs, navigate approvals processes and provide relevant data; and the Scottish Government who develop agreements about the terms of use of datasets with their owners.

At the heart of Research Data Scotland is the handling of deidentified personal data. It is based upon seven principlesy:

1. RDS will only enable access to data for research that is for the public good
2. RDS will ensure that researchers and RDS staff can only access data once an individual’s personal identity has been removed
3. RDS will ensure that all data about people, businesses or places is always kept in a controlled and secured environment
4. RDS will only create a dataset if it is requested for a research programme or study that is in the public good
5. All income that RDS generates will be re-invested into services to help researchers continue to access data
6. Firms that access public data for the public good through RDS will share any commercial benefits back into public services
7. RDS will be transparent about what data it provides access to and how it is being used for public benefit

In May last year, RDS launched the Covid researcher data service. This hosts around 30 datasets brought together for research to support Scotland’s Covid response. There are already over 100 completed research projects using this data and around 650 active projects. 

To achieve the organisation’s mission, Research Data Scotland needs to achieve a step change in the speed of access to data for research, whilst improving transparency and continuing to deliver proportionate information governance and ethical assessment. Research Data Scotland will also broaden the range of data available to researchers. To achieve this, it has secured income of around £10 million in 2021-22 from UK research councils (as part of the ADR-UK, and HDR-UK national core studies programmes), and from Scottish Government.

Research Data Scotland is now formally established as a registered charity (SC051305). However, as an organisation Research Data Scotland is still in development. So, while this service won’t change overnight and improvements will be iterative, the focus in 2021 is to drive down the time taken to access data without compromising scrutiny or security. I’m expecting this to mean more people innovating with data for the public good, saving time, money and lives.

The Trustee's role

Working with the CEO, and the Chair, the Board of Trustees will steer the delivery of the Research Data Scotland mission. It should oversee key decisions that the organisation takes towards that mission, and provide support for the organisation through advice, and use of its networks to ensure Research Data Scotland builds connections that helps it achieve its goals. 

The make-up of the board will be a Chair, Deputy Chair, three Research Data Scotland trustees and six further members in an advisory role. At least one of these advisory roles will represent the views of the public in the use of their data.

The Deputy Chair’s role

The Board of Trustees will have a Deputy Chair who will carry out the following functions:

• Act as a sounding board for the Chair and provide support for the Chair in the delivery of their objectives;    
• Lead the evaluation of the Chair on behalf of the other Directors;
• Take responsibility for an orderly succession process for the Chair;    
• Work with the Chair and other board members,    to resolve significant issues.

The Trustee’s role 

Board of Trustees members will have the following roles and expectations:

• Be diligent and sensible in the administration of their duties
• Keep within RDS charitable objects and powers
• Comply with RDS code of conduct, conflict of interest policy and professional standards
• Provide the necessary information to comply with legal and regulatory requirements
• Constructively challenge and help develop proposals on strategy, supporting the CEO; 
• Scrutinise the performance of management in meeting agreed goals and objectives and monitor the reporting of performance; 
• Satisfy themselves through the Audit & Risk Committee on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and systems of risk management are robust and defensible; 
• Determine appropriate levels of remuneration of Executive Trustees and have a prime role in succession planning;
• Advise the CEO on priorities and strategic direction based on the changing political or financial landscape;
• Commit sufficient time to discharge their responsibilities effectively; 
• Develop external relationships with stakeholders that help RDS deliver its mission and diversify sources of funding.

The commitment is to a quarterly board meeting lasting two hours. The first two board meetings will be face to face in Edinburgh, and then move to a pattern of a quarterly virtual meeting with an annual longer meeting based in Edinburgh. Board members will be expected to serve for a two-year initial term.

There is no salary associated with RDS board roles, though travel and accommodation expenses attributed to the work of the Board will be reimbursed. In addition, beyond the meetings, Board members may be occasionally asked to represent Research Data Scotland at events or provide specific advice on pertinent issues.  There may be possibilities of remuneration for this additional work.

Skills and experience

To ensure that Research Data Scotland makes an early tangible impact on the evidence we have to make decisions and improve lives, the Board needs a range of expertise and perspectives on how to organise a data organisation.  

In particular, the board needs people with board level experience that bring one or more of the following to the organisation:

• Establishing and running an organisation where data and evidence is central to its aims;
• Creating a productive space between research and its use by Governments and public bodies;
• Commissioning data services like Research Data Scotland;
• Having an acute focus on data privacy, ethics and public engagement;
• Understanding the UK research landscape and how to position a service like Research Data Scotland.
• Understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities attached to the trustee role

In addition, the board needs at least one person who can represent the interests of the public whose data is being used in the research and analysis that Research Data Scotland enables.

The skills and personal attributes required of Board members are:

• Strategic thinking and the experience of turning strategy into programmes of delivery;
• someone that can build the reputation of Research Data Scotland through excellent communication and networking skills;
• Acting with integrity, and in ways that promote diversity;
• a passion for improving lives through the responsible use of data, research and innovation.

How to apply

Candidates are asked to put together a 500-word statement of their suitability for the role, and whether they would like to be considered for the role of Deputy Chair. They are also asked to share a CV. The deadline for the post is November 7, 2021. Applications should be sent to jobs@researchdata.scot

If candidates have questions about the available roles or Research Data Scotland more broadly, please get in touch with Roger Halliday, interim CEO of Research Data Scotland via roger.halliday@researchdata.scot

Candidates expressions of interest will be sifted by the Interim chair and the Research Data Scotland trustees. This will be based upon the extent to which they can demonstrate the skills and aptitudes shown above, and the extent of the experience we are looking for. People may be asked to a conversation about the role.