ADR England is a portfolio of data linking and research projects, which enable policy-relevant insights across England and the UK. This work is delivered by a wide range of partners across academia and government, using data held by UK Government departments and public bodies. ADR England is managed by the ADR UK Strategic Hub, embedded within the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Data for ADR England projects is accessed by accredited researchers predominantly via the ONS Secure Research Service.
Driving up the use of ADR England data with research fellowships
A key focus for ADR England has been driving up the use of this data for research. ADR UK has launched two rounds of funding for Research Fellowships using ADR England flagship datasets, in October 2022 and July 2023. Recipients of this funding join a growing cohort of Research Fellows using ADR England data to answer priority research questions. This year, several Research Fellows completed their projects, including users of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Data First magistrates’ and Crown Court, and MoJ & Department for Education linked datasets.
As well as supporting the appointment of two MoJ Evaluation Fellows, and co-funding two No. 10 Data Science Team Fellows with ESRC, the ADR UK Strategic Hub has appointed:
- two Research Fellows using the Data First probation and criminal justice system linked dataset
- two Research Fellows using the Data First family court – Cafcass linked dataset
- six Research Fellows using a range of ADR England flagship datasets.
These appointments show a development in the funding model for fellowships using ADR England data. Rather than focusing funding on a specific dataset, the six research fellows appointed in the 2022 round were given a choice of ADR England flagship datasets when making their proposals.
Building stronger research communities
The Strategic Hub is also growing the research communities using ADR England flagship datasets. This has included a pilot mentoring scheme to run alongside the research fellowship opportunities, which matches applicants with mentors to support their application and skills development. Likewise, the ADR England Research Community Catalysts funding opportunity sets out to build self-sustaining research communities around cross-cutting themes.
Meanwhile, newer ADR England data-linkage projects are underway, which will produce new and enhanced linked datasets for public good research. Read more about that below.
Research carried out by University College London established a link between gestational age at birth (how many weeks into pregnancy a child is born) and school achievement for children and adolescents with underlying chronic conditions. The research tested the feasibility of linking data from health and education administrative records in England using the National Pupil Database, Personal Demographic Service, Hospital Episode Statistics and mortality data. This involved assessing the quality of data, ensuring consistency between sources, checking for linkage bias and the development of optimal strategies for linking large administrative datasets.
Pregnancy normally lasts between 37 and 42 weeks. The research found that:
- - the prevalence of chronic conditions increased with lower gestational age at birth: 39% of those born before 32 weeks had a chronic condition compared to only 6% of those born at 40 weeks
- - the percentage of children not achieving the expected level of attainment at Key Stage 1 increased from 8% for those born at 41 weeks, to 50% for those born at 24 weeks of gestation, with a similar pattern seen at Key Stage 2
- - special educational needs provision ranged from 29% for those born at 41 weeks of gestation to 83% for those born at 24 weeks.
This study enabled the researchers to recommend that additional support prior to school entry should be targeted at high-risk groups based on early health indicators and socioeconomic factors shown to influence later outcomes.
In terms of data linkage, biases were identified around linkage to a hospital record for ethnic minorities and more disadvantaged school children, pointing to the potential to underestimate the health needs of disadvantaged groups. This study shows the value of transparent reporting of linkage error and the potential to use research methods to minimise linkage bias.
This project achieved the first at-scale linkage between Hospital Episode Statistics data and the National Pupil Database. By linking education and health data in England, this study informed future NHS Digital strategies, for example around linkage algorithms, which resulted in the major new resource, ‘Education and Child Health Insights from Linked Data’, or ECHILD. This work has led to research on the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and further work as part of the Department for Education’s Data Improvement Across Government programme.
In recognition of the importance of this linked dataset as a national research resource, ADR UK is proud to announce that the ECHILD dataset is available for researchers to apply to access via the ONS Secure Research Service.
ADR UK Research Fellows are often among the first users of newly-linked ADR England datasets, so their projects provide a great opportunity to demonstrate how this data can be used to answer priority policy questions. To support this, all Fellows have the option to apply for funding specifically focused on developing impact on policy or practice.
Dr Kitty Lymperopoulou used the MoJ Data First magistrates’ and Crown Court linked dataset to explore ethnic inequalities in the criminal justice system, particularly around remand and sentencing outcomes. To maximise the potential impact of her findings, Kitty has developed a policy briefing as well as a data comic to engage new audiences. This resulted in national media coverage in the Metro. Kitty’s important findings have been shared with MoJ policymakers and the senior judiciary who are exploring implications for policy and practice. They have fed into ministerial and policy briefings, providing important insights for the department’s response to the Lammy Review.
Similarly, Research Fellow Dr Tim McSweeney used the same dataset to investigate research questions around serious and organised crime cases. He is developing a film explaining his research findings.
Meanwhile, Dr Katie Hunter has used the Ministry of Justice & Department for Education linked dataset – England to study the intersections between care experiences and ethnicity in criminal justice involvement. She has pioneered work with the children’s charity Barnardo’s to complement her research and disseminate her findings in innovative ways.
The ADR UK Strategic Hub is continuously evaluating the best ways to support research fellows and ensure maximum public value from the research using ADR England data.
Research-ready data projects
Following the ADR England research-ready data and access funding call in 2021, a total of 11 projects are underway. Each one aims to create new or enhance existing linked datasets to enable research for public good. The new projects expand our existing portfolio and add depth and breadth to previously funded linkages. They cover a wide range of themes, from education to climate and health. Details are outlined on their relevant project pages.
The new projects are
- Healthy Households
- Dynamics in private pension saving
- Kids’ Environment and Health Cohort
- Linked local data on children and young people
- Department for Education Data Access and Engagement Programme
- Connecting administrative vehicle data for research on sustainable transport
- Support for development of Longitudinal Education Outcomes data.
Four existing ADR England projects were awarded renewed funding
As part of the ADR England portfolio, ADR UK has funded research that assesses the potential of Wave 1 of the Growing Up in England dataset – which links 2011 Census and education data – to generate new evidence on the experiences of ‘seldom heard’ groups. Led by the London School of Economics, this project followed the educational pathways of young people from the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities.
The team worked with civil society organisation, Friends, Families and Travellers, to organise two engagement workshops with young people from the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and their families on the issues raised by the project. Participants shared concerns around education and training, including discrimination; inadequate support for special educational needs and disabilities; and repeated experiences of punitive sanctions.
Young people and their families were also asked for feedback about data exclusion and data use. Some participants felt that it is essential for public services to record Gypsy, Traveller and Roma identities in administrative data systems. However, others highlighted that some people from the communities might be reluctant to reveal their background in interactions with public services, fearing that this could result in discrimination or other types of adverse or hostile treatment.
This engagement work enabled the project team to make recommendations on how data inclusivity can be maximised in future, and to address ethics guidance on the mitigation of harms and importance of engagement in relation to research with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities. The need to challenge data exclusion and building up more inclusive and representative data infrastructure and evidence has been highlighted by both the UK Statistics Authority Inclusive Data Taskforce and ONS.
The project team will include findings from the workshops alongside the quantitative findings from the project in a forthcoming research report on the project website. Additionally, two accessible outputs setting out the findings from the workshops have been developed. In June 2023, Friends, Families and Travellers included these outputs within a set of teaching resources used during Gypsy, Traveller and Roma history month. Feedback from the workshops is also shaping plans for further research using the Growing Up in England and other linked administrative data.