In order for NHS Trusts to effectively collaborate on the re-use of routine clinical data in a research context, a number of tools and techniques have been built and implemented by the Health Informatics Collaborative. A key problem is the management of metadata: information that describes how a particular item of data has been collected, stored, and may be re-used. Context may be given to each question in a form, each column in a database or spreadsheet, or each field in a database query, making the data easier to understand and avoiding miscommunications and errors being made.
The metadata catalogue is central to our ability to record metadata about large datasets across a large number of centres. It is a tool that provides a standard way for recording information about data standards, data assets, data flows, terminologies, and phenotypes. Much of the information can be time-consuming to enter manually, so the tool speeds up this process by automating this documentation wherever possible, and allowing content to be collaboratively maintained by those with technical, clinical, or research-user viewpoints.
The following video explains the purpose of the Metadata Catalogue and what it can do: