A roadmap for improving the quality of European health data for research by connecting the EHDS and EOSC

02 December 2022

Healthycloud strategic agenda of a health research innovation cloud envisions scenarios for future health data sharing for research and invites political and stakeholder views for next steps.

HealthyCloud consortium members presented their Strategic Agenda for the future of the European Health and Research Innovation Cloud (HRIC) and envisioned how this new European HRIC could work to ensure the first integration between the European Health Data Space and the European Open Science and thus connect the data used by different scientific communities at the European level.

Through its hybrid workshop, ‘Joining forces to define the European Health Data Sharing Landscape for Research’, held on 23 November 2022 at the CSIC offices in Brussels, the European-funded HealthyCloud project presented its Strategic Agenda to EC policy-makers Jerome de Barros (DG SANTE), Salia Rinne (DG CNECT) and Christina Kyriakopoulou (DG RTD), researchers from 15 European universities and research centres, and more than fifty online attendees who contributed their views on the Strategic Agenda’s ten proposals on how a HRIC could improve the depth and quality of existing health data research and enable innovative studies that are currently not feasible.

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) co-cordinates this strategic project alongside Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud. Led by Salvador Capella, the Spanish National Bioinformatics Institute (INB)/ELIXIR-ES, Group Leader, BSC researchers are designing a decentralised infrastructure that allows secure access to sensitive health research data across Europe.

Integrating the European Health Data Space and the European Open Science Cloud

With the improved use of health data for research, innovation and policy-making slated to save the EU 5.4 billion € over ten years, this timely workshop created a space for discussing how to reap these savings and improve health research and its translation into health care by highlighting the need to integrate the European Health Data Space for secondary use (HealthData@EU) and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). HealthyCloud researchers argued that the future Health and Research Innovation Cloud could act as a system to align both initiatives , with Dr Salvador Capella from the Spanish National Bioinformatics Institute (INB)/ELIXIR-ES, Group Leader at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and Healthy Cloud co-coordinator remarking that:

‘In this era of first pre-exascale supercomputing centers in Europe, we must overcome technical challenges to provide guidelines, recommendations and experience. HealthData@EU and HRIC have shared challenges on data access, interoperability and infrastructures’

Connecting the HealthData@EU with the EOSC would provide the opportunity to significantly improve research by facilitating access to European-wide data while providing health professionals with better tools for diagnostics and treatment through EOSC communities and greater opportunity for creating synergies and collaboration across different scientific communities.

European Commission DGs’ views on a health data ecosystem for research

The joint presence of DG SANTE, DG CNECT, DG RTD at the workshop reflects the cross-sectoral and layered approach needed to tackle this topic. Jerome de Barros, Policy Officer in Digital Health at DG SANTE, highlighted the need to create a health data ecosystem that integrates core services providers, generic services, secure processing environments and local services provided by local partners. Saila Rinne, head of eHealth and Ageing Policy at DG Connect added that the future HRIC also plays a key role in the larger Digital Europe programme.

Dr Juan González, co-coordinator of HealthyCloud and BioComputing Unit manager at Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud, was grateful to count with this high-level participation given that:

‘Exchanging views with DGs helps to ensure a proper alignment of the HRIC within the European data sharing ecosystem and to facilitate the daily work of researchers, to improve the depth and quality of existing research, and to enable new studies that are currently not feasible’

The future HRIC

HealthyCloud’s presentation of the first draft of its Strategic Agenda fostered critical discussions about challenges caused by dispersed data generation, ethical and legal limitations and technical obstacles and offered four possible ways of integrating the HRIC into the future HealthData@EU and EOSC:

  • HRIC is EOSC Health
  • HRIC is the HealthData@EU research specialisation
  • HRIC is an independent identity
  • HRIC is an EOSC/HealthData@EU interface

Moreover, the Strategic Agenda includes a proclamation of the HRIC’s commitment to the core values of FAIR principles and a vision of integrating with existing systems.

Next steps for HealthyCloud partners include incorporating the conclusions of this workshop and extending the discussions with stakeholders in an upcoming workshop series, the first of which will begin in December 2022. HealthyCloud will present the final Strategic Agenda and roadmap forward in August 2023.

About HealthyCloud

HealthyCloud (Health Research & Innovation Cloud) is funded by the European Commission with a budget of €3 million and is active from 1 March 2021 to 31 August 2023. It brings together 21 organisations from 11 countries with broad and yet complementary expertise, including European Research Infrastructure Consortiums, national public health institutes, data hubs and academic institutions. The partners of the project are Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud (IACS), Sciensano, European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network (ECRIN), EGI Foundation, Biobanks and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure Consortium (BBMRI-ERIC), European Advanced Translational Research Infrastructure in Medicine (EATRIS), Euro-BioImaging, Universitat de Barcelona (UB), Technologie Und Methodenplattform Fur Die Vernetzte Medizinische Forschung Ev (TMF), Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Austrian National Public Health Institute (GÖG), Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Servicio Andaluz de Salud (SAS), University of Luxembourg (UNILU), Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), CSC - IT Center for Science, University of Tartu, German Network for Bioinformatics Infrastructure (de.NBI-Cloud), Serviços Partilhados do Ministério da Saúde Epe (SPMS), Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC).