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Medical Research Council

Driving up health data standards

The context

A growing and significant area of health research, health informatics is an increasingly important scientific specialism, crucial to enabling discoveries that lead to more effective healthcare diagnosis, treatment and prevention.   


In order to unite UK health data and to transform informatics research, the Medical Research Council, along with a number of other major funders including Wellcome Trust, took the decision to create a new, national institute for health informatics.


The new institute needed a name and clear positioning.  One that could ensure its mission and purpose were understood and supported, attracting a wide variety of researchers and scientists from diverse disciplines for whom ‘informatics’ was not their primary specialism. As well as mitigating against any risk of public mistrust or concern about data privacy. 

The approach

Consultation with Executive Leadership team of Medical Research Council Depth interviews with senior scientists and health researchers > Analysis and desk research Name generation and evaluation Public consultation and qualitative research Formal report, final positioning and naming recommendations


The strategic shift

An articulation of the ‘why’, not a description of the ‘what’ 

Health informatics is an emerging field of scientific research and requires the involvement and collaboration of researchers with diverse specialisms and skills.  As such, the new institute needed to appeal to a wide variety of scientists for whom informatics was not the primary area of expertise.  


Given this, conversations regarding Institute name had become mired in confusion.  With many different opinions expressed on the appropriateness or otherwise of key terms.  As a result, the ‘working title’ of the institute had become a long, descriptive list of specialisms, rather than a useful or useable name. 


Concerns about data privacy and security, especially related to health data, are of very real public and political concern. So, to appeal to a wide range of scientists motivated by a common desire to improve health, regardless of individual expertise, and to ensure the aims of the institute were understood and supported by the general public, our recommendation was to develop a name and supporting strapline that clearly conveyed the purpose of the institute.  


A respected, scientific institute, but ‘open’ to the public 


We explored language and a wide range of possible approaches to naming, to ensure our recommendations and shortlist appealed to the widest possible range of researchers, conveying the intellectual rigour and gravitas required of a new national institute.  Whilst also being understood by and creating positive associations with the general public. 


Naming an emerging discipline, not a ‘location’


Rather than residing within a London-based HQ, like other, comparable national institutes, the new concept would instead take the form of an innovative dispersed network, uniting the UK’s health data and researchers across a number of hubs and centres.  

Therefore, our recommendation, was that instead of following a more conventional approach, we reflect this distinctive and experimental approach in the positioning and name.  


Clarity of purpose and language


The recommendation and final name selected – Health Data Research UK – defied the conventions of the sector - it didn’t use ‘National’, ‘Institute’ or refer to the scientific specialism of ‘Informatics’.  Instead, in conjunction with a clear strapline, we conveyed a strong sense of positive purpose that was understood and well received by the general public and scientific community.  


Innovative name, robust research and recommendations 


Despite an innovative name, the robustness of the approach and research conducted, along with the clarity of recommendations meant this was approved by both Director of Medical Research Council and the newly appointed Director of the Institute in record time. 











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"It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you. We’re delighted with the new Name and the positive reception it’s received.” 


Pauline Mullin

Head of Corporate Communications

Medical Research Council

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