Our aim is to empower researchers to access health data from around the world in a responsible way to tackle COVID-19.  The ICODA Workbench provides the processes and tools to enable researchers to analyse data from many different datasets to address key research questions.

A woman in a lab coat standing in a lab holding a pen

Tools for Researchers

The International COVID-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) exists to enable and accelerate responsible research.  At its heart is the “Workbench” – a new data platform, provided by our alliance partner Aridhia Informatics that allows researchers to discover, access and analyse global multi-dimensional datasets while respecting confidentiality and privacy. The Workbench brings together a combination of tools and processes and can connect to regional or national data infrastructures used by ICODA members.

The platform will consolidate data and metadata from federated repositories to allow teams to work collectively on a focused research question.  Data access and use is subject to rigorous data governance processes, based on the five safes framework.

For researchers, ICODA and the Workbench, offer a unique combination of features – direct, controlled and federated access to curated datasets and to the most advanced analytical tools.  All of these are being developed and tested using our “Driver Projects” – exemplar studies where ICODA is working in close partnership with data contributors and the research community to enable research into the questions they care about.

Access to the Workbench is provided free of charge once researchers have been accredited and project proposals approved.  It is accessible to researchers from all parts of the world and we are particularly keen to welcome researchers from Low- and Middle- Income Countries (LMICs).

The Workbench is not just a place to access datasets.  It will also act as a hub for the global research and innovation community, with access to expertise, training and support available – all with the aim of advancing our vision to support the global research response to COVID-19.

Take a look at the features and benefits of the COVID-19 Workbench and watch a demo of the Workbench in action.

  • "The Workbench adopts an ecosystem approach, supporting open science to tackle COVID-19. This means we want to enable people to form dedicated teams, bring data, code, expertise, and have freedom to operate within the domain of their driver project. And we want to do this while ensuring appropriate use and governance of the data.”

    David Sibbald

    CEO Aridhia Informatics

Our policies

In order to provide clear and transparent ways of working, our policies address a number of key activities:

  • Researchers are required to be accredited: qualifications are checked, institutional affiliation and bona fide researcher status is established
  • Project proposals are reviewed for: scientific merit, patient benefit, appropriate statistical analysis plans, facilitation of high quality research, availability of relevant data that can answer the question proposed and whether participant privacy will be protected. Our Review Process Policy sets out further details.
  • Project proposals in lay form are published
  • All of our researchers sign up to our Alliance principles
  • Our Workbench has a Terms of Use agreement governing its usage
  • Our Publication policy and Attribution policy provide guidance for the publication of research results.

How to join us

We are currently performing our research within a number of Driver Projects.  These are designed to test our processes and systems whilst contributing to knowledge around COVID-19.

At our Alliance Forum event we will be inviting submissions for further Driver Projects as part of a Grand Challenge.  We would love to receive your proposals.  Please attend the Forum or watch its replay for more details on how to submit a Driver Project proposal and join the ICODA research effort.


In order to access the Workbench, you must initially be part of a Driver Project.  Over time we will open this invitation up to any accredited researchers with an approved project proposal.

In order to access data, you must be an accredited researcher with an approved project proposal or part of an approved project team.

Your requested data will be then be securely provisioned into the Workbench for you, or for some datasets, you will access it in-situ by deploying federated analytics requests to run against the data.

Yes, ICODA operates a proportionate set of review processes in order to ensure we operate in a safe, trustworthy and transparent manner.

Each of the Driver Projects has data sets available to it.  New data sets are being added constantly.

The Workbench provides a secure, airlocked analysis environment, which gives researchers access to cutting edge tools within a Workspace.  Data can be analysed in the Workspace using standard tools such as R and SQL; R-shiny apps can be written and deployed; Visual Analytics and Meta Analysis apps are provided. Our tooling is extensible.  Should you need something else within your Workspace, please contact us.

No.  The Workbench provides you with a secure “airlocked” environment.  You are not able to download data.

Please contact the service desk at our technology partner, Aridhia Informatics and they will help you further.

Grand Challenges ICODA


ICODA and Grand Challenges have launched the new Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science pilot initiative to focus on addressing major questions about how to reduce the harm of COVID-19 and future pandemics.  The initiative aims to unite data and develop processes, analytical tools and infrastructure to achieve rapid scientific progress and impact, and is a pilot for the ongoing Grand Challenges that seek to develop global collaboration and innovative approaches to major health challenges.

Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives, launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003, to solve key global health and development problems. Selected projects will become part of ICODA’s portfolio of Driver Projects, helping to further develop processes, tools and infrastructure to accelerate scientific progress and foster collaboration between researchers and the public around the world.  This pilot will lead to a larger Grand Challenges Data Science call in late 2021, which will be led by global Grand Challenges partners.

Focus and timeline

The Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science initiative will provide awards of up to US$100,000 for studies lasting for between 6-12 months, starting in late June 2021 onwards. In addition, successful applicants will have access to ICODA’s digital workbench, as well as technical and wider support from ICODA and its partners.

Proposals are welcomed from any country or region, with particular priority for those involving researchers and datasets from LMICs.

The Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science initiative launched on 17 December 2020. The deadline for initial submissions was 19 January 2021. The awards will be announced in late June 2021.

Online Information Workshop 

Further to our announcement of the Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science pilot initiative for research studies to accelerate progress on addressing COVID-19 through data science, ICODA and Grand Challenges held an online information workshop on 07 January 2021. Researchers from a wide range of organisations and over 140 countries around the world registered for the workshop.

Main agenda points:

• An overview of the Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science pilot initiative, and what we are looking for in applications
• An outline of the longer-term vision for the Global Grand Challenges data science initiatives and how this pilot will contribute
• How the ICODA Workbench and tools, as well as other resources that we will make available to Grantees, will enable and support the selected research studies
• Further information on the terms of the grant awards and what will be supported
• Significant time to address the questions raised during the workshop.

A recording of the event is below, and the presentation slides are available here.

How will we continue the conversation?

We were delighted with the high level of engagement and the large number of questions we received. We received several questions asking if we can facilitate potential applicants who are interested in forming partnerships. We are delighted to announce that we have set up a collaborative website on a platform called a Synapse to help those who would like to build partnerships to support their applications.

We will also be using Synapse to post answers to your questions going forward so please sign up to join the Synapse community so you can see these answers as soon as they are added. Please also now use Synapse to raise any additional questions so we can respond more efficiently and make this information available to the entire community.

A great way to stay connected with ICODA and informed on this grant initiative is also via our social media pages, please join us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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