SICSA DVF Masterclass: Professor John Bass. There’s more to data linkage than just making links

Date(s) - 29/05/2014
2:15 pm - 5:15 pm

PG G.01 Postgraduate Centre, Heriot-Watt University

Welcome to the 2013/14 Heriot-Watt University’s MACS Computer Science Seminar Series!

SICSA Distinguished Visiting Fellow Masterclass
There’s more to data linkage than just making links.

John Bass, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania
SICSA Distinguished Visiting Fellow

Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 2:15pm–5:15pm with coffee break @3:30pm)

At first sight all you need to do data linkage is find a linkage engine—a program that finds links between records. For short-term projects that is usually enough. If you want to do a long-term linkage, continually adding new data and linking it into your system, that’s another story. This master class goes through almost 20 years, during which an innocent project leader managed to trip over just about every obstacle—most of them unexpected. Battered, bruised, scarred, but still cheerful, he is still alive. Now he’s happy to take you through the journey. Come and find out about it; it might save you a lot of tears and tribulation!

Speaker Biography:
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.

John is well known for his willingness to advise and assist any individual or group with respect to data linkage. In 2008 he became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to the community through the development of information technology systems relating to the collection of population health data.” At this time John moved to Tasmania, where he spent four years planning and paving the way for the implementation of a state-wide data linkage unit. After two years of semi-retirement, still involved in new developments in data linkage technology, he is now returning to the marine world via a project to (hopefully) improve the modelling of larval dispersal of rock lobsters in South-Eastern Australia.

Host: Alasdair J G Gray (
For anyone interested, there are tentative plans to go for a drink and meal in Edinburgh after the talk. Please let Alasdair know if you would like to join the party.

If you are planning to attend this event, please register your interest via the EventBrite link below by May 15, 2014. We will use this information to organise the coffee break:

Registration link:

Directions to venue:
Postgraduate Center is building 18 on the map:

We look forward to seeing you soon !!

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