Prof Catherine Comiskey appointed to Research Data Governance Board

Posted on: 15 March 2021

The Government has launched an initiative to facilitate safe and secure access to COVID-19 data for valid health research purposes. A key part of this process is the establishment of a Research Data Governance Board (RDGB) to review applications to access the data for valid COVID-19 related research purposes.

Leading Trinity epidemiologist Professor Catherine Comiskey from the School of Nursing and Midwifery has been appointed by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD,  to the Board.

Professor Comiskey is an expert of long standing in the development, use and interpretation of healthcare statistics and is currently involved in modelling the asymptomatic prevalence of COVID-19 in Ireland and in France and has worked previously on HIV/AIDS, TB, HPV, Measles, Meningitis  and other infectious diseases and vaccination modelling. Her appointment highlights the recognition of the quantitative expertise within Trinity and in particular within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

The RDGB will ensure that patient privacy and confidentiality is central when managing the approach to supporting valid research of this data. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has been maintaining a COVID-19 Data Research Hub since April 2020. To date this data has been used solely by a sub-group of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to conduct statistical analysis on healthcare data.

Now, in partnership with the CSO and the Health Research Board (HRB), an application process has been put in place to enable registered researchers to apply to access the data for research purposes. A series of safeguards have been put in place to protect patient privacy under stringent and transparent rules while advancing our understanding of COVID-19 for the benefit of people’s health, patient care as well as health care policy and planning. Following a rigorous approval process, successful researchers will only have access to data from which all identifiers such as names and addresses will be removed.

The analysis of this data will advance our understanding of COVID-19 for the benefit of people’s health, patient care as well as health care policy and planning.












Professor Catherine Comiskey (pictured above) said:

I am delighted to be appointed to this inaugural and groundbreaking Board.  As a Professor in Healthcare Statistics I am passionate about using existing data to provide evidence for informed decision making that not only improves lives but provides a better quality of life for all.  Nowhere have we seen the importance of this more than with COVID-19,  as every household  has been impacted. It is my wish that the workings of this Board will be a new model we can share with other health challenges both nationally and globally.

The RDGB is based on a model of best international practice and it will set a precedent for best practice for data sharing for the future in other areas of health research. This is important as research plays an essential role in tackling health challenges, identifying areas for improvement, what treatment works best for whom and ongoing planning and public policy decisions.

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