A slippery slope — the path to national health data linkage in Australia – John Bass

Abstract: Linkage of health-related data in Australia dates back to the late 1960’s with the first inspiration coming from the United Kingdom. Since then computers have developed at a barely believable rate, and technical considerations still exist but do not pose any serious problems. Progress has been slowed by the increasing need for better privacy and confidentiality. Further complications have resulted from living in a large and diverse country ruled by several highly parochial states as well as the federal government. This presentation tells the story from a viewpoint largely based in Perth, Western Australia. In 1984 this city had a population of less than a million, and the nearest city/town of more than 20,000 people was Adelaide, more than 1,650 miles away by road. In our context, this was a benefit as much as a hindrance, and Perth has been very much the epicentre of data linkage.

Bio: After an early career in marine zoology combined with computing, John Bass has been at the leading edge of health-related data linkage in Australia since 1984. Early work on infant mortality in Western Australia resulted in a linked dataset that became the cornerstone of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. He then implemented the Australian National Death Index in Canberra before returning to Perth as the founding manager of the Western Australian linked health data project — the first of its kind in the country. He designed and implemented the technical system of this group, which is widely recognised as the foremost data linkage unit in Australia. John stepped aside from his position in 2000 but has continued a close relationship with the project, designing and overseeing the implementation of genealogical links and then spending several years working with state and federal government to implement the first large-scale linkage of national pharmaceutical and general practice information. This involved the development of new best-practice privacy protocols that are now widely adopted across Australia. He was a core participant in developing a detailed plan for the implementation of a second state-based data linkage unit involving New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. In 2008 John moved to Tasmania, where he spent four years planning and paving the way for the implementation of a state-wide data linkage unit. He is now semi-retired, but still working on new developments in data linkage technology.

Event details

  • When: 13th May 2014 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar

Data Matching Research at the Australian National University

Seminar by Peter Christen, Australian National University

Techniques for matching, linking, and integrating data from different sources are becoming increasingly important in many application areas, including health, census, taxation, immigration, social welfare, in crime and fraud detection, in the assembly of national security intelligence, for businesses and in bibliometrics, as well as in the social sciences.

Today, data matching (also known as entity resolution, duplicate detection, and data or record linkage) not only faces computational challenges due to the increasing size of data collections and their complexity, but also operational challenges as many applications move from static environments into real-time processing and analysis of potentially large and fast data streams, where real-time matching of records is required. Finally, with the growing concerns by the public of the use of their data, privacy and confidentiality often need to be considered when personal information is being linked and shared between organisations.

In this talk I will present a short introduction to data matching, describe these above discussed challenges, and provide an overview of three areas of research currently conducted in data matching at the Australian National University:

  1. Scalable real-time entity resolution on dynamic databases
  2. Scalable privacy-preserving record linkage techniques
  3. Efficient matching of historical census data across time


Event details

  • When: 12th February 2014 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Honey 103 - GFB
  • Format: Seminar

Techniques for Scalable Privacy-Preserving Record Linkage

Three-Hour Research Tutorial by Peter Christen, Australian National University

Privacy-Preserving Record Linkage (PPRL) is an increasingly important topic in data management, data engineering, and data mining, as organizations in both the private and public sectors are under pressure to share, integrate, and link their data in order to allow analysis that is not possible on individual databases. At the same time, sensitive information such as personal identifying details or confidential business data need to be protected. PPRL can for example be applied to match health databases without revealing any sensitive personal details of patients, or to detect individuals that have been involved in fraudulent activities across organizations without the need to share the full, potentially confidential, databases. Research in PPRL over the past decade has developed a variety of algorithms, however the challenge of linking very large databases in privacy-preserving, scalable, accurate, and automatic ways is still an open problem. In this half-day tutorial I will illustrate the significance of PPRL through several real-world scenarios, and introduce the concepts, techniques, algorithms, and research directions of PPRL.

This tutorial was previously held at CIKM 2013. Further details at: http://cs.anu.edu.au/people/Peter.Christen/cikm2013pprl-tutorial/.

There will be a limit on numbers due to the size of the venue. Attendance is free but prior registration is required. Please contact Graham Kirby <graham.kirby@st-andrews.ac.uk> if you wish to attend.

Event details

  • When: 11th February 2014 14:00 - 17:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar

An Experience of Peer Instruction

Talk by Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow

Fed up with talking at students in one-hour chunks? Fed up with them not turning up, or falling asleep, or not remembering anything you said? Alternatively, are you fed up going to seminars where you get talked at for 55 minutes with only 5 minutes to ask questions?

Come along on Tuesday for a taste of something different. Peer Instruction (PI) is a pedagogy from the “flipped classroom” stable, where students do preparatory work before coming to lecture, and the lecture itself is more of a tutorial with lots of small-group and class-wide discussion. PI has been documented to give “times two” learning gains on standardised tests over traditional methods. Students work hard in these lectures, making your and their time worthwhile – one student said this term “I felt mentally tired after these lectures, which felt really good actually!”

I’ll run the first part of the session (at least) as if we were in a PI classroom. This will only really work if you have already at least skim-read the short three page article linked below which introduces some of the aspects of PI – saving me having to go over it again in the seminar, and allowing you to process it and be ready to grill me in the session itself!


Event details

  • When: 17th December 2013 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Talk

HEA ‘Curriculum for Excellence Scholarship Scheme’

The HEA has recently funded 20 scholarships which are aimed at helping HEIs work with partner schools and consider the impact of CfE on future higher education content and delivery when school-leavers enter higher education from 2015/16. Lisa Dow has been awarded a scholarship to develop the use of virtual environments in Social Science and History education in local schools.

Frotscher Medal Runner-Up

Juliana Bowles, the School Disability Coordinator, was runner-up for the new Frotscher Helping Hands Medal for Excellence in Supporting Students. This recognises her selfless commitment to providing support to students at St Andrews.

In the current academic year, we have been very happy to welcome our first totally blind student, Saad Attieh. Juliana has coordinated and largely provided our support for Saad’s studies in Computer Science. She made contact with his teachers in Edinburgh, learned about Braille (including the different ways of representing mathematics in Braille) and in depth design and preparation of teaching materials for accessibility. She has researched, selected and commissioned a range of equipment for preparing accessible diagrams and handouts. She has checked over lecture slides, coursework and exams, nagged other lecturers, including professors, to get their slides ready in time, and attended many lectures to check that the lecturers’ delivery is appropriate.

We hope to be welcoming another partially sighted student in 2013-14.

The photo shows Juliana with the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, at the award ceremony in the MUSA galleries (with a slightly alarming painting as backdrop).

Juliana Bowles with the Proctor at the Frotscher Medal Award Ceremony

Juliana Bowles with the Proctor at the Frotscher Medal Award Ceremony