Epidemiological Computing: Supporting Large Scale Research

Lead Research Organisation: Medical Research Council


Over the last few decades, CTSU has developed and maintained bespoke IT systems that underpin the efficient conduct of the unit’s large randomised trials involving tens of thousands of participants, and even larger observational studies, such as the UK Biobank and China Kadoorie Biobank, each involving over 0.5 million people. These IT systems require close working between our scientists and IT experts in order to support a wide range of activities for each research project. For example, CTSU have developed dedicated IT systems to enable the identification and invitation of potential participants, data capture systems to ensure the smooth running of our assessment clinics (including touch-screen questionnaires and the integration of various medical measurement devices), and sophisticated and secure databases for the storage and analysis of large complex datasets.

Technical Summary

This programme implements and maintains secure, reliable, efficient, user-friendly IT systems for new and on-going clinical trials, observational studies and meta-analyses.
The large-scale, often international, projects conducted by CTSU would not be feasible without sophisticated, bespoke IT systems. These are based on, and are enhanced by, our work in streamlining study processes, including innovative integration with measurement and data capture devices, and with routine health records. CTSU’s extensive IT experience greatly increases the speed of development: while many of the systems and much of the computer code can be used on multiple projects, changes are made to accommodate demands of new protocols, evolving technologies and changing regulations for security, privacy and data sharing. Long-term projects require long-term support with periodic upgrade or replacement of legacy systems.
A major focus will be on the development of core systems to support (i) analysis, archiving and exchange of clinical trial data (meeting the requirements of the international Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium); (ii) key activities of the CTSU Wolfson Laboratory (particularly new analysers, quality control activities, long-term sample archive); and (iii) replacement and enhancement of legacy systems for coordination and analysis of long-term projects (e.g. the 20 year old Fortran-based systems that support the Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group).


10 25 50
Description NHS Digital Research Advisory Group 
Organisation National Health Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Accessed NHS data for research
Collaborator Contribution data provision
Impact n/a
Start Year 2016
Description NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC) Cardiovascular Scientific Steering Group 
Organisation National Institute for Health Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution data sharing agreements between NHS Trusts
Collaborator Contribution data sharing agreements between NHS Trusts
Impact n/a
Start Year 2019
Description Invited workshop participant, Cancer Research UK / School of International Futures "Future of Clinical Trials after Brexit" report 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited workshop participant, Cancer Research UK / School of International Futures "Future of Clinical Trials after Brexit" report
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description St Hugh's School visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School visit, (year 8) St Hugh's School, Oxfordshire. June 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018