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Researcher area

Here, you will find information about the data held by INSIGHT, the process for applying to use it, and how we assess individual applications.

To see the data available through INSIGHT, go to our Datasets page

For examples of the types of research that use eye health data, go to the Benefits of INSIGHT page.

What data is available through INSIGHT?​

There are currently 13 INSIGHT datasets available through the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, spanning many areas of eye health. You can see details of the datasets here.

The data includes different types of ophthalmic imaging, visual field tests and other clinical data. The datasets currently available are from two NHS Foundation Trusts:

  • Moorfields Eye Hospital – one of the world’s leading centres for eye care, research and education, based in London

  • University Hospitals Birmingham – one of the UK’s largest acute NHS Trusts and a leader in digital healthcare

As well as the summaries on our datasets page, more detailed information on the datasets is available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway.

Will INSIGHT datasets change over time?

New data from Moorfields Eye Hospital and University Hospitals Birmingham is added on an ongoing basis. INSIGHT will eventually have up to thirty datasets available from these trusts. In the future, routinely collected data from other NHS trusts and eye centres may be available for research through INSIGHT.


What makes INSIGHT datasets unique?​

We know that people commonly regard sight as their most valued sense, but the importance of the eye in medicine goes well beyond the function of seeing. The eye has long been regarded as a window into the human body, but the increasing use of high-resolution imaging has led to the development of a new science – termed 'oculomics' – in which ocular biomarkers are used to detect systemic disease. 

Ophthalmology and optometry benefit from the largest number of images and outpatient visits across the NHS, providing a unique opportunity for the collection of data at scale through INSIGHT. The potential value of high-resolution ophthalmic imaging is huge, because it is:  

  • Gives micron-level resolution of neural, vascular and stromal tissue

  • Fast, non-invasive and light-based

  • Known for high patient acceptability and compliance, enabling frequent repeat testing

  • Already available on the high street

Applying for INSIGHT data

Once you have identified which INSIGHT datasets are relevant to your research, we strongly recommend that you contact us to discuss your research data proposal before submitting a formal application. You can contact us by filling in the data enquiry form below or by emailing us directly: 


When you are ready to submit your application, you can either:  


The Data Request Process

To see how the INSIGHT data application works in detail, see our Data Request Process diagram below or download a PDF (400KB).

Who can apply to access data through INSIGHT?

Applicants will only be considered if they represent organisations with recognised research programmes and a clear commitment to patient benefit. Private individuals are not able to access INSIGHT data. 

Appropriate organisations could include:

  • The NHS

  • Universities

  • Research organisations and charities

  • Pharmaceutical companies

  • Health technology companies

  • Start-ups and SMEs

  • Other organisations that can demonstrate how their research will improve outcomes for patients and the NHS

Data held by INSIGHT will not be available to insurance companies, for marketing purposes or for any other commercial activity that is not deemed to be in the interest of patients or the NHS. 

In all cases, INSIGHT undertakes a due diligence process to ascertain that each organisation is appropriate for the research it is proposing before the application can progress. The application is then scrutinised by the INSIGHT Data Trust Advisory Board (DataTAB), who consider the ethical aspects, risks and benefits of each proposal, taking into account the views of patients and the public. You can find out more about the DataTAB here.


Data Use Applications made to INSIGHT as of October 2022

Several multi-sector research organisations have made applications for INSIGHT datasets. The infographic below shows the breakdown of Data Use Applications by sector:


All Data Use Applications submitted to INSIGHT are subject to an ethical evaluation of the purpose, value, and benefit of the research by the INSIGHT Data Trust Advisory Board (DataTAB).


Under the INSIGHT data governance structure, the DataTAB is an independent-of-Data Controller panel of reviewers who meet to consider and provide an advisory recommendation to the respective Data Controller to accept or refuse an application based on their assessment.

What criteria does INSIGHT use to assess applications?

We assess applications to use the data held by INSIGHT using the 'Five Safes':

  • Safe projects: Is this use of the data appropriate?

  • Safe people: Can the users be trusted to use it in an appropriate manner?

  • Safe settings: Does the access facility limit unauthorised use?

  • Safe data: Is there a disclosure risk in the data itself?

  • Safe outputs: Are the statistical results non-disclosive?


Consideration of the Five Safes is central to the way INSIGHT works. These principles have been reviewed independently by the Research Ethics Committee on behalf of the NHS. 


The INSIGHT DataTAB uses the following criteria to assess applications:


  • Is there a clear audit trail of how the data is being used and published?

  • Is there a clear clinical outcome, social care or public health outcome?

  • Does the proposed application pose a significant risk to individuals’ privacy?

  • Will data obtained through INSIGHT be linked to other datasets? If so, has the applicant considered the risks and offered a mitigation process?

  • Do we believe that the risk mitigation process(es) are realistic and sufficient?

  • Has the applicant taken into account public / patients’ views when designing the project proposal? Has the applicant consulted public/ patients in the formulation of their research question/ project proposal?

  • Does the project outcome strike a good balance between public good, scientific discovery, value generation?

  • Will the proposed outcome disadvantage any group or individual?

If you would like more information about how the application process works, please contact us.

How much does it cost to access the data?

An appropriate costing model will be developed for each application, taking into account the nature of the research and any potential commercial value that may derive from use of the data.

For more information about costs, please contact us.

The Health Data Research Innovation Gateway​

The Health Data Research Innovation Gateway is a portal set up by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) to provide a single resource where researchers can discover and request access to hundreds of NHS datasets, including those from INSIGHT.

The HDR UK Gateway contains qualitative and quantitative information about each dataset, including a detailed description, age and size of population, and licensing information. 

Users can search catalogues of health datasets, research projects and publications, and collaborate with other researchers via a community forum.

Applications to access the datasets can be made directly through the Gateway, although we recommend you contact us directly first to discuss your research proposal.

Please note that not all INSIGHT datasets are currently listed on the Gateway. Contact us for more information.


Images (top to bottom): 1) A researcher in the lab at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Credit: Anton Webb / UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, 2018; 2) An OCT scan being performed at Moorfields, 2018. Credit: Moorfields Eye Hospital (library shot); 3) Digital code. Credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash; 4) A patient undergoing an eye test at Moorfields, Credit: Anton Webb / UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, 2018; 5) A retinal examination being undertaken at Moorfields. Credit: Anton Webb / UCL Insitute of Ophthalmology, 2018; 6) Stock photo. Credit: Wix

Please note: photos of people without facemasks pre-date the Coronavirus pandemic.

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