John's career history is not that of a conventional academic; he has a diverse education (BSc Physics, MSc Cognitive Science, PhD Health Informatics) and worked for ten years in industry prior to his academic career. John has worked for Bell Northern Research, Cisco Systems and PA Consulting Group in a wide range of R&D roles in telecoms and data networking. John's first academic appointment was as Senior Research Fellow in 2011. In 2015 John completed a PhD in Health Informatics, long after he had established himself as an independent researcher with a research group of over 20 R&D staff. John was appointed Professor of Health Informatics in 2016. He has been the Deputy Director of the MRC Health eResearch Centre for the last three years and has a leadership role in the national Farr Institute. Most recently, the ideas expounded in his paper “Combining Health Data Uses to Ignite Health System Learning”, on the reorganisation of data flows in the NHS to create a Learning Health System have been funded for implementation by the Department of Health in the £20m Health North - Connected Health Cities pilots, for which John is now the Director. John has been involved in two spin-out companies to develop and commercialise his research - North West eHealth ( and Affigo CIC (

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

UK Council for Health Informatics Professions (Reg. No. 10396)

Methodological knowledge

Software Development

Systems Engineering


John Ainsworth is Professor of Health Informatics at the University of Manchester where he is also Deputy Director of the Centre for Health Informatics. He is involved in numerous research projects, but with one common aim - to use computing and information technology to improve the health of the population. He is also Deputy Director of the MRC Health eResearch Centre, part of the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and is the Director of the Connected Health Cities Coordinating Centre.
John works at the intersection of information technology and healthcare research focusing on applying information technology to improving health care and includes:

  • Harnessing computing technology to enhance data science   
  • Using information technology to improve health services
  • Applying emerging computing technologies to create novel interventions


  • BSc (Hons) Physics
  • MSc Cognitive Science
  • PhD Health Informatics

Research interests

My research can be simply stated as improving population health through the application of information technologies. There are three main themes to my research. The first is using information technology to support the scientific method.  In the field of data science everything is digital. The whole process of deriving new knowledge from raw data is mediated by information technology, which means every step in the process can be captured digitally, shared and copied at minimal cost. It enables truly open and transparent science as we can publish every decision and assumption made, making all the detail of research available for review and revision. It will also produce the conditions for reproducible science and enable knowledge, capture is digital form, to be more readily discovery and reused. The key concepts of eLabs and Research Objects which I have developed over my research career, will be further extended and evaluated in Connected Health Cities to enable knowledge exchange and reuse, for collaboration between academic and NHS front line staff and as tools for education. My second research theme is using information technology to enable coproduction of health by patients and professionals. We live in an age where computing and connectivity are ubiquitous and pervasive. This presents new opportunities for generating high-resolution longitudinal data from patients in their everyday lives. How we transform this data into knowledge that can be used to make decisions about care by both patients and professionals is a research area that will transform healthcare over the next ten years. My immediate plan is to research the utility of passive sensing (such as geo-position and motion) to provide real-time diagnostic information for long-term conditions such as schizophrenia and dementias. To make this a reality, research is needed into data acquisition, data management and data processing, into data interpretation and contextual metadata, into human factors and embedding devices and sensors in everyday life. I have been funded within Dementias Platform UK to do this research, researching passive sensors to measure life space diameter. The third theme is using information technology to optimise health systems. Currently we assume that health care evidence is time invariant, and applies equally to everyone. We treat diseases in isolation and produce evidence in the same way, limiting the possibility for combination and holistic treatment of the patient. Health systems need to be re-engineered to deliver timely, actionable information to the relevant actor. This is the essence of Connected Health Cities, in which I will direct research into federating data flows across health and social care boundaries, healthcare big data analytics, information governance across multiple organisations, structures and organisation to bring together academics and NHS front line staff to deliver new insight, public engagement to create a social licence for secondary use of healthcare data.

In addition to my own research, I enable the research of my colleagues. I have pioneered and led the development of the HeRC Trusted Research Environment, a scientific facility that provides secure data storage and computational capability for health data science. I have developed an infrastructure that connects directly into the NHS network meeting NHS Information Governance standards and is certified according to international ISO27001 information security standard. Beyond the infrastructure is delivered as an operational service to researchers who need a secure, managed environment for health data analytics.

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