Annual Report 2022-2023

The role of data in helping us make informed decisions has never been more crucial. Timely and accurate data can address policymakers’ biggest challenges, from managing inflation to protecting the environment. ADR UK is well-placed to facilitate the generation of this evidence. It represents a major investment in the infrastructure needed to make data accessible, and in the skills researchers and analysts require to make the most of it.

Through close partnership with government and research organisations, the programme is generating new insights that can help us evaluate policy and improve its effectiveness. I am delighted to see ADR UK’s training and capacity building strategy come into its own this year, with a range of ambitious initiatives to support research uptake of administrative data. This is an important step in supporting researchers to solve complex challenges across society. Throughout the Economic and Social Research Council, we are making strides towards supporting this increased capacity across the sector.

Our strategic delivery plan commits to providing a powerful evidence base for good policy to increase growth and prosperity across the UK. ADR UK forms part of a wider programme of investment that contributes to this ambition, including the ongoing work of our Data & Infrastructure team, and the Smart Data Research UK programme, which aims to develop thriving research communities focused on data from the digital world. Together, these activities are contributing to a future where data is used more effectively in the public interest across the UK.

Stian Westlake

Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council  (ESRC)

As the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt, alongside the cost of living crisis, the need to better understand the variety of circumstances and experiences across the UK grows ever stronger. By exploring how different aspects of public life are connected, and doing so at scale, we can identify patterns that would be invisible in other forms of data. Research using linked administrative data provides a unique example of data science for the public good, generating understanding and insights that help decision makers across the UK.

It is heartening to see ADR UK continue to make remarkable inroads into generating this evidence and informing action. As the range of available ADR UK datasets expands and becomes increasingly diverse across our trusted research environments, we are seeing research across a range of topics coming to fruition. We continue to work with partners across government, the third sector and the public, to ensure the research we enable can answer priority questions in policy and practice. This is key to ensuring the public good is at the heart of what we do.

A particular highlight this year has been seeing ADR UK making strides towards building the skills base we need in order to deliver ever more innovative analysis in the future. The programme is funding 20 PhD opportunities focused on research using linked administrative data, hosted across ESRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships. Increasing the pipeline of skilled data researchers is an essential part of ADR UK’s ambition for a future where administrative data is more routinely used for public good.

ADR UK’s partnerships across the sector are key to realising these ambitions and ensuring the impact of our work. In particular, this year ADR UK and the wider ESRC have worked with our partners at the Office for National Statistics to support the progress of the new Integrated Data Service and help ensure that it meets the needs of the wider research community, a collaboration that will continue over the year ahead. This cross-government initiative aims to deliver a data access service that facilitates richer analytical insight for researchers working with administrative data.

As ADR UK moves further into its 2021 – 2026 funding period, I look forward to continuing work to meet our ambitious objectives.

Professor Alison Park

Deputy Executive Chair of the ESRC and Senior Responsible Officer for ADR UK

Just two years into the ADR UK 2021-26 Strategy and following a £90 million reinvestment from UK Research and Innovation, it is amazing to see how much is being achieved across the entire partnership. In all four ADR UK trusted research environments, the collection of research-ready datasets continues to grow - transforming how researchers access linked or linkable administrative data. You can discover these on the new ADR UK Data Catalogue, which we launched this year following a cross-partnership project led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). We have further invested in data linkage programmes across ADR England, ADR Northern Ireland, ADR Scotland, and ADR Wales outlined in their respective key developments and our new and emerging datasets.

Over the past year our partnership has agreed a definition of “flagship datasets” and developed supporting content to showcase these. These ADR UK flagship datasets provide the basis for the 20 PhD studentships ADR UK is funding. These studentships aim to supply a pipeline of new researchers using administrative data for public good research as well as produce policy-relevant insights on pressing social and economic issues. There has been an ever-increasing range of research using this linked data taking place over the past year. We have spotlighted some of these in the partners’ key developments. In addition to the core-funded research programmes in ADR Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is a growing number of ADR UK Research Fellows using ADR England data, with the most recent cohort starting in August. ADR UK Research Fellows also featured in the ONS Research Excellence Series in recognition of their outstanding contributions to linked administrative data research. Cross-partner initiatives such as our ADR UK Workshops Roadshow and Researcher Symposiums strive to grow and support the researchers in administrative data research.

Increasingly, ADR UK is impacting policy and practice in the UK, particularly in the devolved nations where the ADR UK model that brings government and academia together has had more time to mature. The case studies in this annual report help demonstrate this impact. Also in the policy sphere, we have been pleased to contribute to various government consultations such as the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, The Sudlow Review 'Unifying Health Data in the UK', and the inquiry Transforming the UK's Evidence Base. In these, and all our work, we continue to advocate for safe and transparent use of the public’s data in research.

Since our Public Engagement Strategy 2021-26 was published, ADR UK has remained committed to listening and responding to the public. We see this as essential to demonstrating trustworthiness and maximising the public benefit of research using administrative data. We marked the one-year anniversary of the strategy with a blog series celebrating public engagement approaches in each of the four national partnerships. The Public Engagement in Data Research Initiative (PEDRI), of which ADR UK is a founding member, likewise celebrated its one-year anniversary with partners in June. PEDRI marks a big step forward in collaborative public engagement within the data research landscape, and will continue to allow ADR UK and partners to champion best practice.

What comes next? In November, ADR UK in partnership with the ONS will host the ADR UK Conference 2023: 'Public Data for Resilience and Inclusion. Using administrative data to inform policy and practice in challenging times'. An event not to be missed – tickets are still available at the time of writing this. Exciting plans are also in place as the ONS Secure Research Service transitions data, people and their projects to the new Integrated Data Service – promising a step change in how ADR UK researchers will tap into the UK’s wealth of administrative data. Accompanying this, we will continue to build capacity among researchers. Our new Learning Hub is a helpful starting point, providing information and resources on accessing and using administrative data. The ADR England Research Community Catalysts will also develop communities of researchers to advance administrative data research for public good.

You will hear about all of the above, and much more, in this 2022-23 edition of the ADR UK Annual Report. Our sincere thanks go to you for your support as we take these shared efforts forward.

Dr Emma Gordon

Director of ADR UK

ADR UK in numbers

A year in review

This year has seen a range of achievements and milestones across the ADR UK partnership. Explore an interactive timeline for an overview of the activities.

New and emerging datasets

This year has seen a number of developments for ADR UK datasets across the partnership, including newly-available datasets for research, emerging data that will soon be available, and new updates.

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We're also improving researchers' experiences of accessing administrative data. Find out how.


Public engagement

We define our public engagement as a purposeful set of activities designed to promote an ongoing dialogue with the public about administrative data research, driven by active listening and responding. This enables us to enrich understanding for everyone and maximise the impact of research, ensuring activities are meaningful and mutually beneficial. 

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ADR UK Ambassadors

ADR UK Ambassadors are people working in and around government and academia, who are committed to increasing and improving the use of administrative data research to inform policy and practice. They use their expertise, networks and influence across a range of topics to advocate for better and more routine use of data to solve pressing challenges. 

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Researcher engagement 

Building and sustaining relationships across the research community has a fundamental role to play in ADR UK’s ability to fulfil its mission. This type of engagement ensures researchers’ perspectives are fully represented in our work, enabling us to support public good research in the most effective way. This past year has seen us make great strides in this work, as we have grown our relationships across the sector and sought new ways to engage.  

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The year ahead

Over the next year, we will look to publish learning resources online and facilitate courses on specific administrative datasets. This will make datasets more accessible for research use, while at the same time supporting researchers to develop their skills. Our ultimate aim to maximise the value of these datasets for the public good, and supporting more researchers to be able to use them effectively is an important step in our mission.

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