CLOSER data resource profile published in IJE

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A detailed overview of CLOSER and the data resources it provides to the scientific community has been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The UK has been a world leader in longitudinal research since the first national birth cohort began in 1946. Today that UK is home to a huge number of different longitudinal studies, ranging widely in size, focus and design.

In 2012, CLOSER – a partnership of eight studies, the UK Data Service and the British Library – was established to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s longitudinal studies portfolio. Over the past six and half years, CLOSER has played a vital role in facilitating collaboration across the longitudinal research community, promoting opportunities and best practice in comparative longitudinal research, raising the profile of the studies, and generating impact.

The collaborations facilitated through CLOSER have drawn together expertise from different disciplines, stimulating learning, knowledge exchange, skill development and partnerships. Together, the longitudinal community is working towards establishing effective tools and standards for facilitating and improving longitudinal research, both within and across individual studies.

The resource profile outlines four key areas of work:

  • Data discoverability: CLOSER Discovery is an online search engine that currently allows researchers to search and browse the contents of eight UK longitudinal studies, with more studies in the process of being added. CLOSER has supplemented the information in Discovery with a catalogue of biomarker data (PDF) and an overview of genetic information in the studies (PDF) available. To build Discovery, CLOSER has collated and enhanced metadata from each of its partner studies, which will encourage data re-use, study reproducibility and the valid interpretation of research findings.
  • Data harmonisation: CLOSER has been a driving force in retrospective data harmonisation, and is leading 16 different harmonisation projects across a wide array of applied areas and using several different longitudinal studies. In carrying out this work, CLOSER is helping to provide clarity about concepts and instruments and encourage prospective harmonisation in future sweeps of data collection.
  • Data linkage: CLOSER has played a critical role in improving access to linked data, promoting good practice, and documenting application and approvals processes. It has also been instrumental in helping longitudinal studies overcome the range of legal, ethical, social, practical constraints facing their linkage efforts. In addition, CLOSER is also scoping the potential linkages with other forms of data, for example geographic variables and social media data.
  • Training and knowledge exchange: Strong collaboration is the foundation on which all CLOSER’s work sits, and this cooperation often brings to light knowledge and skills gaps that need to be filled. CLOSER’s programme of knowledge exchange events, workshops, resource reports, and its flagship introductory resource, the Learning Hub, complement the efforts of individual studies and support skill development across the longitudinal community.

Although the profile is specifically focused on data resources, it also highlights the diverse impact, engagement and policy work undertaken by CLOSER.

The resource profile demonstrates how CLOSER’s diverse programme of work drives forward collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavours to learn and innovate, and ultimately secure the UK’s world-leading position in life course science. CLOSER provides centralised access to detailed information on the many variables collected across the studies through CLOSER Discovery, and helped widen perspectives on patterns of generational change through data harmonisation. Finally, CLOSER is the longitudinal community’s advocate in government and Parliament, promoting the value of longitudinal data, linkage and feeding evidence in to policy development.

Read the full paper

Data Resource Profile: Cohort and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources (CLOSER)’ by Dara O’Neill et al. was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in February 2019.