Client Services

The role of Client Services

Each jurisdictional data linkage unit within the Population Health Research Network (PHRN) has dedicated client services staff that provide services to researchers and data custodians. The aim of client services is to facilitate access and delivery of linkable data for research to inform policy, planning and management to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

Within the PHRN, most client services staff are separate from the linkage staff i.e. they do not perform the linkage of data and do not have access to the linked data. Client services encompass a range of processes from initial study design and application for data, through to selection of study cohorts and assistance with the delivery of data extracts to researchers.

The most common client services provided by PHRN Data Linkage Units include:

  • publishing online metadata for data collections available for linkage, including guidance on data collections available for linkage in each state, custodian details, temporal scope, links to validation studies;
  • providing advice to researchers regarding the approval and application process and providing access to all necessary forms;
  • providing information and assistance with project design including cohort selection, control selection, variables/time periods required, power calculations;
  • procuring quotations for data linkage and extraction services;
  • undertaking preliminary review of 'Application for Data' forms to ensure completeness;
  • assisting with the completion of data custodian approval forms and ethics applications to ensure that applications include all required documentation and information, and are complete and well-conceived;
  • forwarding draft applications and formal applications to relevant data custodians for full review and approval and coordinating the approval process;
  • assisting with negotiation of contracts with data custodians following approvals;
  • supporting use of the extracted data, including answering questions about data fields and coding specifics; and
  • comprehensive tracking services including pertinent dates, approvals and project status.

Please note that PHRN does not adjudicate requests for data; the authority to approve the use of the data remains with the data custodian.

For contact details of jurisdictional based client services staff  click here.

A degree of variability exists in the service models to researchers and data custodians between and within jurisdictions, in terms of negotiation of contracts, sequencing of approvals, merging and data delivery.  Key differences are summarised below:

  • assistance with Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) liaison and completing HREC forms;
  • addition of derived variables to data extracts;
  • provision of training to researchers;
  • models of data delivery to researchers following formal approvals;
  • publication of lay summaries' of current and completed projects and research outputs on data linkage units websites; and
  • collation of annual reports prepared by researchers.