Data Linkage

Course dates

16 - 17 July 2018. 

Course duration

2 days (approximately 8 hours teaching and 4 hours of practical sessions).
Registration will start at 8.30am on the first day, the course will finish by 4.30pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Andrew Boyd (course organiser) and others

Course aims 

To provide a basic understanding of the research value and uses of linking to routine health and administrative records. The course will focus on describing which data are available and on providing an oversight of how to interpret these data in a secondary context.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • recognise some of the uses / the value of data linkage in research;
  • know which electronic primary care data resources exist, and the pros and cons of the different means of accessing these data;
  • understand which health data are available in national population centralised health databases, and how to access them;
  • understand the range of administrative (social) data currently available;
  • gain awareness of the legal and ethical requirements of accessing and using linked data;
  • understand the risks associated with working with, and publishing, individual level data and to be introduced to some of the means of mitigating these risks;
  • understand some of the issues that need to be taken into account when working with linked administrative data.

Please note: Practical sessions of this course will be held in a computer lab, so you will not need to bring a laptop.

Who the course is intended for

The course is aimed at researchers who are interested in the potential for using linked routine records in observational research. While the course will introduce record linkage assuming no prior knowledge, however some experience in epidemiology, data handling and statistical analysis is required.

Course outline

The course structure loosely follows the journey a researcher needs to take to establish a 'data linkage pipeline'. Firstly, we summarise the range of data that are available. We then describe the application process and focus in depth on some of the key criteria by which applications are judged (e.g. information governance, patient/participant involvement and disclosure control). We then describe issues relating to defining exposure and outcome measures (needed for both application purposes and exploratory analysis).

The taught course is reinforced by a series of small-group practical sessions where you will learn to apply the lesson contents to an 'application' that your group will pitch to a mock application panel.

Finally, we bring the taught issues to life through a series of exemplar talks - focusing on the perils and pitfalls of the record linkage process - from researchers who have successfully used linkage strategies in their investigations.

Recommended reading

Burton PR, Murtagh MJ, Boyd A, Williams JB, Dove ES, Wallace SE, Tassé AM, Little J, Chisholm RL, Gaye A, Hveem K. Data Safe Havens in health research and healthcare. Bioinformatics. 2015 Jun 25:btv279.


Make a booking

Free - waiting list in operation
Paid - places available.

I think the practicals were extremely useful and well planned and executed. All the tutors were very engaging and enthusiastic. It was a very well organised course with high standard. I really enjoyed it.

Course feedback, October 2016

Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email

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