We live in a world of data which is growing fast, and society is rapidly responding to the opportunities and challenges this presents. This is as true in biomedicine as in any other domain of human endeavor. Health data are collected for routine treatment and research purposes, enabling better clinical decision-making and informed healthcare research.

Data Safe Havens provide safe and secure environments for enabling use of routinely collected data for healthcare research. Data protection and privacy of individuals is the cornerstone upon which Safe Haven principles are built. They are designed to ensure de-identified health data can be accessed only by those with the need and permission to do so, under appropriate technical and governance controls.

Visualisation and analysis of medical images are a major component of the diagnosis and treatment process and their use has extended beyond the traditional diagnostic arena into healthcare research. As such, Data Safe Havens now need to provide researchers with medical image data and the right software or ‘medical imaging tools’ to view, compare, annotate, and segment it as part of the analysis process.

The PICTURES programme, an MRC-funded collaboration between University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, Abertay University, Public Health Scotland and industry partner Aidence, aims to increase the capabilities of Safe Havens to support emerging technologies and new data types such as images, MRIs, CTs, X-rays etc in health data research.

The PICTURES programme is now conducting research into what open-source medical imaging tools would be most useful for researchers in a Data Safe Haven environment.  A broad range of open-source medical imaging tools have been studied, installed, and their functionality tested with dummy data. Finally, a survey is being run to find out what medical imaging tools are actually being used by researchers and why, to help ensure the range of software made available within Safe Havens meets the majority of needs.

A survey was previously announced in November 2020 and received some great feedback from expert users, who have worked with medical imaging tools for a long time. Thanks go to those who responded to the initial survey and especially those who gave their time for follow-up interviews, enabling the PICTURES team to create a shortlist of potential tools. Due to a small number of responses in November, the PICTURES team is now running a second and shorter survey to attract more results. Less experienced image data researchers are strongly encouraged to share their views. The team wants to hear from anyone who uses or wants to use medical images as part of their research, including researchers, clinicians, radiologists, and computer scientists.

The survey takes around two minutes to complete and closes on 2nd February. SINAPSE is offering a £50 Amazon voucher for one respondent, to be randomly drawn after survey close. If you previously gave feedback anonymously and now want to be part of the prize draw, please resubmit your response and include contact details. You can access the survey here.