Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

Spotlight on Working With Personal Data

In this guest blog post, Sarah Janac, Research Facilitator in Digital Research Services, shares resources and dates of an upcoming webinar series to support researchers in working with personal data.

Digital Research Services provide a single point of access to data and computing resources at the University of Edinburgh. As Research Facilitator for CMVM I am part of the Digital Research Services team. Part of my role is to offer advice and consultancy, helping academic, PGRs and professional staff navigate the complex landscape of digital research, so they can find the tools and training that are most suitable to them.  

As is expected for research involving health and social care, by far the most common questions I get asked are all to do with working with personal data. Is DataStore suitable for storing this? Do I need to encrypt this? How do I anonymise this dataset?  

Unfortunately, much to the frustration of the people asking these questions, there are no black and white answers. Context is key, and there are many different teams involved in the decision-making, most notably the sponsors and ethical approvals of each project. The most important thing is to document how one plans to handle research data with a data management plan in advance of starting a project. 

Nevertheless, it became apparent that there was an opportunity here to provide guidance and signposting to make the processes, teams and approvals involved in working with personal data clearer. After all, understanding the complexities at the start of a research project, and finding the necessary training and resources in the early stages, can save a lot of questions and headaches down the line. 

The Spotlight on Working with Personal Data resources aim to do just that. They include a written signposting document and a webinar series.  

Spotlight on working with personal data. #DRSEvents

Resource Overview: Working with Personal Data  

Resource Overview: Working with Personal Data (The University of Edinburgh Digital Research Services website) 

This Resource Overview is like the master signposting document. It introduces readers to important concepts when working with personal data e.g. legal frameworks (especially GDPR), sponsorship approvals, ethical approvals, and important planning documents. There is also a section on working with NHS data and an outline of the security features of key University tools and services. Latter is especially useful to provide details in data management plans.  

Throughout the document, there are hyperlinks to further training, resources or support teams. That way the reader can identify a topic that they would like to learn more about and leave the Resource Overview to do a deep dive with the links provided. There is a summary of helpful contacts and training at the end of the document, both University-provided and external ones.   

This Resource Overview of Working with Personal data is bookmarked in the Resource Section and the Resource Finder of the Digital Research Website. That way, you can stumble across it when looking for other digital research tools for your project.  

Webinar Series: Working with Personal Data 

Spotlight on: Personal Data (The University of Edinburgh website)  

This webinar series was developed in collaboration with the CMVM Data Managers. It aims to answer the most common questions and provide practical advice to working with personal data. Across various dates throughout March and April, experts from across the University will present on a specific topic, leaving room for questions at the end. Webinars are open to research staff, PGRs and professional staff, who can choose to attend just one or several of the 30-minute online sessions. You can find this webinar series amongst all the other digital research training items we have on our website. 

The webinars will focus on important aspects when planning research with personal data. Dates and topics are as follows:  

Tips for securing sponsorship (with a focus on data management) 

  • Tuesday 12 March 12:30-13:00 
  • Chris Coner, Research Governance Coordinator, ACCORD 
  • Book your spot here (University of Edinburgh access only)

Personal data – key definitions, concepts and considerations (Insights from the Data Protection Office) 

  • Thursday 14 March 12:00-12:30 
  • Rena Gertz, Data Protection Officer, University’s Secretary Group 
  • Book your spot here  (University of Edinburgh access only)

Tips for obtaining ethical approvals (with a focus on data management) 

  • Wednesday 20 March 12:30-13:00 
  • Christine Campbell, Co-director of Research Ethics, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine 
  • Book your spot here (University of Edinburgh access only)

Personal data and open science – practical advice, considerations and safeguards 

  • Tuesday 26 March 13:00-13:30 
  • Kerry Miller, Research Data Support Officer, Library Research Support 
  • Book your spot here  (University of Edinburgh access only

Effective engagement with the research contracts office (data agreements and more) 

  • Friday 29 March 12:30-13:00  
  • Allan Shanks, Head of Research Contracts, Edinburgh Research Office 
  • Book your spot here (University of Edinburgh access only)

Pathways to archiving personal data 

  • Tuesday 9 April 12:30-13:00 
  • Simon Smith, Research Data Support Officer, Library Research Support
  • Book your spot here  (University of Edinburgh access only)

Supporting student projects involving personal data – top tips for supervisors (from a supervisor) 

  • Tuesday 17 April 12:00-12:30 
  • Juliane Kloess, Lecturer in Forensic Clinical Psychology, School of Health in Social Science 
  • Book your spot here  (University of Edinburgh access only)

As with all activities conducted by Digital Research Services, we value your feedback. You can get in touch with us using

To stay in touch with upcoming events and resources, follow us on LinkedIn and X and join the digital research mailing list.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.