UCL and University of Bristol to lead support hub for UK’s longitudinal population studies

27 March 2024

UCL and the University of Bristol will lead the Population Research UK (PRUK) co-ordination hub, part of an existing strategic investment from the UKRI Infrastructure Fund.

The UK is a world leader in population research, bolstered by its unique collection of longitudinal population studies, which follow groups of people over time. Individually, the studies have made substantial contributions to the advancement of social and health sciences and together, they have the power to uncover the drivers behind major societal challenges and provide a potent tool for basic science application.

The collective power of the UK’s longitudinal studies was never more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies across the country coordinated to rapidly capture the epidemiological events affecting their participants, work which was then combined with a lifetime of data to shed light on how our backgrounds and lifelong health shaped our experience of the pandemic. This was just one of many examples demonstrating how important it is to make the most of population-based research in the UK.

The PRUK mission is therefore to further harness the potential of these scientific resources by supporting researchers, policymakers and study management teams to maximise benefits and overcome shared challenges.

The coordination hub is the culmination of previous PRUK activity, which has been funded through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) since 2021. The hub is a £9 million investment that will play an important role in PRUK providing joined-up thinking across the UK’s longitudinal population studies and commissioning activities that will result in better, easier to use data resources for social, economic and biomedical science. It marks a further commitment to longitudinal population research infrastructure, alongside ESRC’s continuing investments in CLOSER and MRC and ESRC’s joint investment in the UK Longitudinal Linkage Collaboration.

The PRUK co-ordination hub will be directed by Professor Alissa Goodman, Director of the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) and Professor Nic Timpson, Principal Investigator of the Children of the 90s cohort at the University of Bristol. Professors Goodman and Timpson bring a wealth of experience in life course research and longitudinal study leadership and management.

The investment strengthens UCL’s position as a global leader in life course research: the university is already home to all five of the UK’s national birth cohorts, and existing longitudinal study infrastructure such as CLS and CLOSER.

PRUK Co-Director, Professor Goodman of UCL, added: “The UK is a world-leader in longitudinal population studies and Population Research UK provides us with an incredible opportunity to come together as a community. PRUK will create a forum for the users and creators of longitudinal population studies, and the infrastructure that serves them. Through engagement in the forum and commissioning of services, we will drive innovations in how we work in order to maximise the value and potential of these fantastic resources.”

PRUK Co-Director, Professor Timpson of the University of Bristol, said: “PRUK will seek to deliver enhanced use of population-based research assets in the UK. Our community model will deliver a combination of connected working, skilled users undertaking open science with complex multi-modal data, and engaged policymaker, public and participant stakeholders. The overall aim is to maximise the sector’s value for the public good.”

The wider leadership team of the PRUK hub team includes experts from across the UK longitudinal population research infrastructure landscape. Professors Goodman and Timpson are joined in leading the new initiative by Andy Boyd of the UK Longitudinal Linkage Collaboration, Paul Bradshaw of the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen), Professor Rosie McEachan of Born in Bradford, Chris Orton of Population Data Science at Swansea University Medical School, and Professor Jennifer Symonds of CLOSER.

PRUK will focus on five key areas critical to successful longitudinal population research and data collection, identified in the PRUK prospectus, building on existing provision and commissioning additional activities to address priority needs:

  • data discovery
  • data access
  • data linkage
  • training and capacity building
  • coordination and advocacy.

More information

Follow PRUK on X at @PopResUK

Email pruk@ukri.org

More about the UKRI Infrastructure Fund

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