The UK administrative data research network: improving access for research and policy

Information technology Great Britain

Developers of this report worked with government departments, academic experts, and funding agencies and representatives from all four nations in the UK to examine the best procedures and mechanisms to make administrative data available for research safely.

Routinely collected administrative data are a rich and largely untapped source of information for research and policy evaluation in the UK, the value of which continues to appreciate over time.Such data are often high quality, nationally comprehensive, provide information for long periods of people’s lives, and are relatively inexpensive to exploit, compared to the costs of establishing specially commissioned surveys.
National administrative data such as social security, tax and education records relating to individuals or organisations have the potential to provide a robust UKwide evidence base for research and policy evaluation. The Administrative Data Taskforce finds that access to and use of such data for research purposes in the UK has been difficult, due mainly to the concerns that data holders have about the possibility that information that identifies individuals could enter the public domain or because of legal restrictions they face on the uses to which such data can be put.

The Taskforce recognises that the UK has the opportunity to be a world leader in research using de-identified administrative data routinely collected by government departments, agencies and statutory bodies. Such data, made accessible for research in ways that prevent the identification of individuals, will inform a wide research agenda relating to the health, wealth and security of the UK population, guiding the development, implementation and evaluation of related policy interventions. The efficiency gains, in terms of both the high costs of alternative research resources and the speed with which findings can be generated, are likely to be considerable. Realising this opportunity requires improvements in procedures for access to and linking between such data. This entails not just the development of a safe, secure and efficient system for linking, managing and analysing administrative data, founded on secure technologies, but on further building of trust between data subjects, data providers, researchers and all other relevant parties. The new system must adopt the highest international standards of governance, professional practice and public engagement. New legislation is needed to enable the efficient sharing and linking of data; government and the relevant funding agencies need to resource the new system to ensure its integrity, sustainability and utility.

The ADT proposed a number of recommendations regarding a UK Administrative Data Research Network that would be responsible for linking data between government departments. The proposed network will provide a single governance structure that will allow for consistent and robust decision-making.

A report by Administrative Data Taskforce (ADT). The ADT was formed in December 2011 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust.

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