Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection (AD|ARC) project

Farming in the UK underpins the nation’s food security, generates economic benefits and shapes a rich and varied landscape. Likewise, farm families, residing in the same location often over many generations, are important local actors, strengthening the social fabric of rural areas.

Despite these contributions to local and national life, farming as a sector experiences uncertain and volatile profits with consequences for household income and financial stability. In recognition of these and other features of farming life, agriculture has received subsidies aimed at supporting and stabilising farm incomes, encouraging environmental actions and diversifying farm business activities.

For almost 40 years, policy was largely delivered through the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but following Brexit, authority will return to the UK. As agriculture is a devolved matter, this means new and increased responsibilities for all four UK nations. New policy directions are already being established with aims linked to improving business prosperity, enhancing environmental sustainability and strengthening business and personal resilience.

The project

The AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection) project aims to integrate the human dimension with data on farming activities, to better understand the demographic, health, education and economic characteristics of farm households associated with different types and sizes of farm businesses. This will provide the insight needed for decision makers to improve future policies and enhance the wellbeing of farmers and their families.

AD|ARC brings together esteemed data linkage researchers and experts in agricultural affairs with partner organisations including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales (PHW). The programme will bring together the teams within the individual nations of the ADR UK investment, led by Dr Paul Caskie of the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland and principally supported by a team at ADR Wales.

The exact project plan will be determined by close engagement with farming stakeholders and scientific researchers across the UK.

Research will investigate relationships between farm family characteristics and recent farming and land use activities with a view to improving the design of future policies and enhancing the wellbeing of farmers and farm families. The project will do this in separate but coordinated work streams for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, aiming to be complementary so that analysis at a UK level is possible.

Project details

Principal Investigator: Dr Paul Caskie, Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland

Phase 1:Funding amount: £597,366 (ADR UK, part of ESRC)Duration: June 2020 – March 2023

Phase 2:Funding amount: £368,204 (ADR UK, part of ESRC), £100,000 (Welsh Government)Duration: April 2023 – March 2025

The project is led by ADR Wales with a core administrative team supported by the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator. Project governance is the responsibility of the AD|ARC Steering Group.

The AD|ARC project will benefit from the following governance structures:

  • AD|ARC Steering Committee – comprising the project management team, data controllers and policy leads from government – with responsibility for strategic direction and achievement of project objectives.
  • AD|ARC Scientific Advisory Board – comprising leading researchers in a range of science disciplines from around the UK – with responsibility for refining the research objectives and when appropriate participating in analysis. View the AD|ARC Scientific Advisory Board Terms of Reference (May 2021).
  • AD|ARC Stakeholder Reference Groups – comprising representatives from farming communities across the UK, and third sector organisations engaging with farmers and farm families – with responsibility for informing research proposals and commenting on emerging findings. Find out more about the AD|ARC Stakeholder Reference Groups.

The project team can be contacted at This project is funded via the ADR UK Strategic Hub Fund, a dedicated fund for commissioning research using newly linked administrative data, in consultation with the former Research Commissioning Board (RCB).

The data

AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agriculture Research Collection) links de-identified electronic records that are already collected by departments across the governments of the UK. The datasets included in AD|ARC are the:

  • EU Farm Structure Survey
  • Rural Payments
  • Census of Population
  • Inter-Departmental Business Register

Additional routine health and education records held by the various UK administrations will be linked where available. All data will be de-identified before being made available to accredited researchers to access for research that is in the public interest. This means that all personal identifiers, such as names, ages, and addresses, etc, are removed before being made available to researchers. The data is held under rigorous safeguards to ensure only accredited researchers with approved access to AD|ARC can conduct research across thedatasets (e.g. census, education) without ever being able to identify a person, household, or farm. All outputs will be subject to third party review as a further assurance against any form of disclosure.

What is the potential of this newly linked data?

AD|ARC research will focus on describing the composition and characteristics of farm households and undertaking analyses investigating farm family health and wellbeing, prosperity and resilience, and farmer engagement with agri-environmental issues.

Analysis will address issues of interest to policymakers and other stakeholders across the UK.

Outputs will inform future policy decision making, potentially leading to better responses to challenges such as improving prosperity, responding to environmental pressures, generating better health outcomes and improving farm household income.

In addition, the AD|ARC data resource will be available after the project ends, creating the potential to expand in a number of directions and enabling the generation of new evidence to support farming, farmers and farming households for years to come.

How is the AD|ARC database being kept safe?

Keeping the de-identified data we use for research safe and secure is our top priority. Key to this is the network of trusted research environments that store AD|ARC data, which operate based on the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Five Safes framework.

The trusted research environments which store AD|ARC in Great Britain are:

In Northern Ireland a sister resource, CARS( Census Agricultural Research Study), is stored in:

The trusted research environments of the UK are secure systems that do not allow researchers to copy or remove data from the secure location or secure connection. This means that researchers do not have any data on their own computers. All the research results from AD|ARC (such as tables or graphs) are also stored in the trusted research environment. Before researchers can share any results (for example, in a report), they are checked by an independent team at ONS to protect them against any potential re-identification.

All researchers that can access AD|ARC have been accredited and trained on how to handle data safely and ethically. Researchers who wish to analyse the AD|ARC data must prove to a governance panel that their research has the potential to benefit the public.

Can researchers find my -or my child’s –records within the AD|ARC database?

No – The AD|ARC database is “de-identified” which means it doesn’t contain any information that identifies a person. For example, it doesn’t include names, addresses, dates of birth, or NHS numbers.

What if I do not want my data (or child’s data) to be included in AD|ARC?

The AD|ARC team strongly believe in the benefits of research using de-identified data, and have robust policies and security in place to prevent the misuse of individuals’ de-identified data. Nevertheless, we understand that some individuals may not want information about them used for research. If someone is concerned about having their de-identified records included in AD|ARC, they are welcome to contact us for any further information they require. Please see the section- ‘How do I contact the AD|ARC team?’

Because the AD|ARC datasets held in the trusted research environments only contain de-identified data, the AD|ARC team are unable to directly to identify you so cannot remove your records from the collection. However, if you would like to find out more about the secondary uses of de-identified data and the policies of the UK trusted research environments where AD|ARC is stored, which includes information about whether and how you can opt out of anonymised data that relates to you being used for secondary purposes, please select one of the following dropdowns.

Data shared for the AD|ARC database is done so via a range of legal gateways which allow accredited researchers to access data for research and statistical purposes. One of the most commonly used legal gateways is the Digital Economy Act 2017, Section 64 – ‘Disclosure of information for research purposes’. It states that de-identified data held by a public authority in connection with the authority’s functions may be disclosed to another person for the purpose of research. This is, however, subject to meeting certain criteria, including the assurance that a person’s identity is not specified in any information disclosed for research.

AD|ARC data in Wales is stored in the SAIL Databank. Information on SAIL and contact information can be found by following the links below.

SAIL Databank -The Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank

SAIL Databank -FAQs

AD|ARC data in England is stored in the ONS Secure Research Service. Information on ONS Secure Research Service and contact information can be found by following the links below.

Secure Research Service -Office for National Statistics

Privacy Policy -Office for National Statistics

You have the right to tell NHS Digital if you do not want the information you provide to the NHS to be used beyond the purpose of providing healthcare.

This is known as a ‘patient objection.’ Please visit NHS Digital’s website for further details.

Your choice will not affect the health care you receive.

If you would not like your health data (or your child’s data) to be included in AD|ARC you will need to tell NHS Digital before 01/11/22. This is because once the health data has been de-identified the project team will not be able to identify you and won’t be able to remove your records from the AD|ARC dataset.

AD|ARC data in Scotland is stored in the National Safe Havens. Information on the National Safe Havens and contact information can be found by following the links below.

Safe Havens | NHS Research Scotland | NHS Research Scotland

A Federated Network of Safe Havens -Charter for Safe Havens in Scotland: Handling Unconsented Data from National Health Service Patient Records to Support Research and Statistics.

CARS data in Northern Ireland is stored in the National Safe Havens. Information on the NISRA safe research environment and contact information can be found by following the links below.

NISRA safe research environment

How do I contact the AD|ARC team?

If you have questions or concerns about AD|ARC, please contact the project team:

AD|ARC Project Team
Knowledge and Analytical Services
Welsh Government
Cathays Park

Email: AD|

What if I have a complaint?

If you have a complaint about the use of de-identified data by AD|ARC you have the right to complain directly to the Information Commissioners Office, the independent regulatory authority set up to uphold information rights.