The Centre for Victorian Data Linkage (CVDL) team facilitates and provides guidance to researchers and policymakers to access the linked data needed to address project-specific research and support better planning and evidence-based policy.

In providing these services, CVDL is guided by legislation principles and ethical standards while adhering to health privacy and records Acts that apply to the use of unit-level data for research and statistical purposes. 

CVDL acts as a trusted intermediary, with the approval and collaboration of data custodians, to enable linkages and allow researchers to gain access to data in a secure and privacy-sensitive way.

Early engagement with the CVDL team is strongly recommended for researchers seeking access to linked data as the CVDL team can determine if the data linkage request is technically feasible and can be carried out by CVDL. 

Researchers and policymakers must have the approval of the relevant data custodians and the approval of a recognised National Health and Medical Research Council, Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). Applicants should also note that an HREC may require documentation of approval in-principle from the relevant data custodian(s) before considering an application. 

Guiding principles for data linkage

To ensure statistical and administrative data can be securely and efficiently linked, researchers must consider and address the following guiding principles before undertaking a data linkage project:
 
  • public interest -- any data linkage work must ultimately be in the public interest
  • governance and public transparency -- having a transparent and accountable governance structure is essential to ensuring that data is being accessed and linked in an appropriate and responsible manner
  • privacy -- protecting the individual's privacy 
  • consent -- ensuring data custodians and subjects have been granted by an appropriate oversight body
  • anonymisation -- making sure any re-identification risks have been removed
  • security -- checking that trained staff and security controls of data use in a secure environment are in place
  • access and personnel -- ensuring linked data files are provided only to nominated staff involved in the project 
  • clinical trials -- considering specific requirements as appropriate
  • sanctions -- applying legal measures when there has been a breach. 

Responsibilities of researchers

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) promotes good practice, responsible conduct of research and handling breaches of the code such as:

  • fabrication of results
  • plagiarism
  • conducting research without ethics approval 
  • conflicts of interest.
 
More information about the code is available here.

Applying for linked data

All data linkage request applications are to be submitted to CVDL (cvdl@dhhs.vic.gov.au). The data output that are provided to the applicant must be used for the intended purpose as stated in the completed CVDL 'Data request form'. 

If the applicant wishes to use the data for other purposes, the applicant must apply for this by completing another 'Data request form' as this will be treated as a new request.
 
If at any point the applicant intends to publish the data, and the review or approval of the department has been a condition of the data release, it is the responsibility of the applicant to provide a copy of the publication materials to the department for review/approval prior to publication.
 
It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure they protect the security and integrity of data released into their care. Data supplied to the applicant:
  • must be stored securely
  • must be destroyed when no longer required by the applicant
  • must not be accessed or used by a third party.
The CVDL 'Data request form' can be downloaded here.

Data request timeframe

The timeframe of a project is dependent on a number of factors, including linkage complexities; some practices might be more exhaustive than others. CVDL Client services' will assist as much as possible to give you an indication on a project timeframe for you to plan your project.

To find out more about how the Centre for Victorian Data Linkage can assist you please email us at cvdl@dhhs.vic.gov.au.