ATLAS: Advanced data search tool for researchers
What is ATLAS?
ATLAS enables researchers to search for population cohort data using thousands of variables. This tool builds upon the search facility of the UKCRC Tissue Directory by enabling access to detailed, live information about the data associated with tissue samples held by some of the UK's largest bioresources, cohort studies and human sample resources.
ATLAS allows searching on individual data records, returning tables of results, so researchers can be more specific about the data required for their research. ATLAS does not provide access to the raw data but enables researchers to find out where relevant data is held. Normal access procedures apply for researchers seeking to use data.
Researchers interested in cohort study data, or seeking specific associated data with tissue samples, may find this tool useful. Researchers without a disease-focused research interest may also benefit from its use.
Information from four UK organisations is currently available to search via ATLAS: NIHR BioResource, Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Generation Scotland and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC), also known as 'Children of the 90s'. More organisations will join ATLAS throughout 2020.
What is available?
ATLAS launched on the 26th February 2020 for the research community to access. The available datasets will be updated as new partners are brought into the system.
This is the first time that a cross-disease and cross-domain search tool has been attempted and it is likely that improvements will be required. ATLAS will be an ever-evolving system and we would like this to be driven by the needs of the community. We have opened ATLAS now so that we can start to get feedback as soon as possible. Please get in touch if you notice something is not quite right or if you have any suggestions.
How do I use ATLAS?
ATLAS can be used to find out if particular cohort studies are suitable for your work.
Researchers must complete a free registration process to use ATLAS. You will be asked to provide your name, work address, email address and a weblink to your work profile or similar, for verification purposes. Your login details will be sent to you via email (please check your spam folder).
Once you have logged into ATLAS, you will be able to filter search criteria by your interests and create custom searches to find relevant datasets. Try searching 'asthma', 'smoking' or 'sugar' to test the system and pull relevant categories together to create a group. Permission for research use of the data must be sought from the cohorts directly, using contact details listed on ATLAS.
Partners and Project Development
The project has been led by the University of Nottingham (lead of the UKCRC TDCC) and Health Data Research UK, supported by Nic Timpson from the University of Bristol. ATLAS originates from a need to create Access points to Tissue, Longitudinal data, Archives and Samples. The UKCRC TDCC is keen to support this work as it aligns with our mission to minimise duplication of effort and maximise the use, value and impact of Human Sample Resources. This tool builds upon the search facility of the UKCRC Tissue Directory by enabling access to much more detailed, live information about the data associated with tissue samples held by some of the UK's largest bioresources, cohort studies and human sample resources.
To enable quick development of ATLAS, the University of Nottingham formed a research collaboration with BC Platforms. BC Platforms adapted its federated data sharing technology in order to develop an open standard that can be utilised and implemented across the biobanking network. The communication protocols used in developing ATLAS are being made public, offering opportunities for future innovation as they are available for development and use by others. Speaking about the initiative, UKCRC TDCC Director Phil Quinlan said: "We are really pleased that BC Platforms has taken such a bold step to allow us to open up their proprietary communication protocols for the benefit of the health research community."
ATLAS has been supported by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK). ATLAS supports HDR UK's mission to unite the UK's health data to enable discoveries that improve people's lives. As collaborative work with HDR develops, it is hoped that ATLAS will interlink with other data access platforms.