Administrative Data Taskforce
Improving access for research and policy
The importance of competitive research in underpinning economic growth is widely recognised. The UK Government’s recent Open Data White Paper¹ reinforces the importance of ensuring effective access to national data collections for research and policy development.
National administrative data such as social security, tax and education records, relating to individuals or organisations, have the potential to provide a robust UK-wide evidence base for research and policy evaluation. The Administrative Data Taskforce (ADT) was formed in December 2011 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust. Professor Peter Elias CBE, of the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick, acted as ESRC Strategic Advisor for Data Resources as part of this task force.
The Taskforce found that access to these data has been difficult, largely due to concerns about the identification of individuals and also because of legal restrictions on the use to which the data can be put. It was recognised that the highest international standards of governance, professional practice and public engagement would need to be adopted. New legislation would also be needed to enable the effcient sharing and linking of data, and a new system would need to be resourced by the relevant funding agencies to ensure the integrity, sustainability and utility of the data. The Taskforce made several key recommendations²:
- An Administrative Data Research Centre (ADRC) should be established in each of the four countries in the UK;
- Legislation be enacted to facilitate research access to administrative data and to allow data linkage between departments to take place more effciently;
- A single UK-wide researcher accreditation process, built on best national and international practice, should be established;
- A strategy for engaging with the public should be instituted;
- Sufficient funds should be put in place to support improved research access to, and linkage between, administrative data;
The Taskforce concluded by recommending that the funders, the ARDCs, the Governing Board and the data holders, combine to become a new data resource for the UK through a UK Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN).
The UK Government has expressed agreement with the direction of travel set by the Administrative Data Taskforce and supports the broad recommendations and ambitions of the report. The UK Government has begun working with the Economic and Social Research Council and others in developing significant data resources. In October 2013 the four ADRCs were established at the Universities of Southampton, Queens University Belfast, Edinburgh and Swansea.
Access to data through the Administrative Data Research Network will significantly strengthen the ability of UK researchers and policy-makers to contribute to a deeper understanding of social and economic issues facing urban society across the UK.
Professor Elias was Chair of the recent meeting on the Economic Value of Urban Data at CUSP in New York.