The administrative data initiative that transforms researchers’ access to the UK’s wealth of public sector data to help solve social and economic issues will continue for a further five years.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest over £90 million in Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) enabling it to ensure policy-relevant data linking and research projects across the UK can continue.
Global leader in data infrastructure
ADR UK is a leader in giving accredited researchers access to de-identified data from government departments, local authorities and health authorities. This enables better informed policy decisions that address major societal challenges and improve public service provision across a range of areas including education, healthcare and crime.
This continued commitment ensures policy-relevant data linking and research projects across the UK can continue with no loss of the vital skills, infrastructure or momentum that have been built up during the first three years since ADR UK was formed.
ADR UK helps maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in data infrastructure and demonstrates the value of using insights from the wealth of existing data to inform decision making for the good of society.
Helping tackle the Covid-19 pandemic
ADR UK played a pivotal role in the pandemic through its investment in trusted research environments across the UK including the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service and the SAIL Databank. These trusted research environments acquired data and made it available for approved, secure research that was vital to the pandemic response across the UK.
On a local level, the ADR UK funded Local Data Spaces programme is helping local authorities understand the spread and impact of the pandemic in their communities by using de-identified Covid-19 data from the national Test and Trace programme alongside health and administrative data to support local decision-making.
Harnessing crucial data
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI said: “Administrative data is an under-explored but information-rich resource. The wealth of data available from government departments and public services has the potential to create important knowledge and insight, as well as to provide a comprehensive picture of UK society and point to areas where change is needed.
“ADR UK plays a pivotal role making this data accessible to researchers in a safe way. This continued investment ensures policymaking underpinned by data-driven evidence can make a positive difference to our society and improve people’s lives.
“Research projects funded by ADR UK have already made significant contributions during the Covid-19 response by enabling local authorities to harness crucial data to support their decision-making and help them understand better the spread and impacts of the pandemic in their communities.”
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “As we build back better from the pandemic, it’s vital that we support UK scientists and researchers in unlocking the wealth of public sector data which can provide crucial insights into how we improve every aspect of our society, from healthcare to education. That’s why today we’re committing a further £90m of government funding to Administrative Data Research UK, allowing our best and brightest to continue their work in transforming our lives for the better.”
Build back better, stronger, fairer
Continued reinvestment in ADR UK also secures the future of the research fellowship programme which is linking up researchers with policy makers at the heart of government. An example of this is the No.10 Data Science fellowships which use new and existing linked administrative and survey datasets to produce analyses to inform policy in government priority areas around the Covid-19 recovery, net zero climate target and levelling up UK regions under plans to build back better, stronger and fairer.
This investment will also allow the commissioning of more flagship data research projects with Whitehall departments, such as the ‘Data First’ partnership between ADR UK and the Ministry of Justice, which is linking data from across the civil, family and criminal courts, to enable better experiences of, and outcomes from, the justice system.
ADR UK is well-placed to address strengthening the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19. The Wage and Employment Dynamics project, is led by academics at the University of the West of England, will show the ‘scarring effects’ of the pandemic on the wage and career progression of different demographics, and where support should be targeted.
National partnerships across the UK
As well as enabling the continuation of national partnerships of ADR England, ADR Scotland, ADR Wales and ADR Northern Ireland to continue, and funding the ONS Secure Research Service, this renewed investment means ADR UK can also establish a training and capacity building hub to ensure a pipeline of skilled data scientists to analyse administrative datasets in the future.
Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of ESRC and Senior Responsible Officer for ADR UK, said: “ADR UK is a key ESRC data infrastructure investment, and to have this further commitment is hugely welcomed.
“In the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are at a coming of age moment for administrative data. The questions we ask now, the data we collect, and how we safely and securely link and analyse it, will be crucial to how the UK navigates its way over the next few years in order to emerge stronger and more resilient for the future.
“Data infrastructure established as part of the ADR UK programme has already proved its worth in informing the Covid-19 response, and there is much more to do – for instance, linking health, social and economic data in order to understand the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on particular communities, and the systemic vulnerabilities and inequalities that underly them. With renewed funding, ADR UK stands ready to help provide many of the answers.”
Dr Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, said: “We are delighted to have secured this continued funding, giving all of our partners the certainty they need to continue vital administrative data linking and research to inform policy decisions, improve public services, and improve the lives of people across the UK.
“This funding extension is testament to the expertise and hard work of colleagues across the ADR UK partnership. It demonstrates that we now have a tried-and-tested model that works, funding a network of trusted research environments across the UK including the Secure Research Service at ONS, working with government and researchers, and delivering tangible benefits for both public policy and the wider research community. We have commissioned landmark projects with UK Government departments, while our partners in the devolved administrations have continued to grow their portfolios of policy-relevant research and open up access to data.
“We are now an important step closer to realising our long-term vision of being the default choice to host linked administrative data from across the entirety of UK and devolved government, making it accessible to a deep pool of trained researchers to generate insights routinely used to inform policy and practice.”
To find out how data can be accessed securely, visit https://www.adruk.org/data-access/data-access/