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.
The ADR UK Conference 2023 presents a valuable opportunity for anyone involved in progressing administrative data research to do the same. The event will bring together researchers, civil service analysts and other professionals to share ideas and insights.
Here, two ADR UK Ambassadors share their reflections on administrative data research, the conference and their roles in bringing it to life.
Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation
Why do you feel it’s important to advocate for better research use of administrative data?
There are two main reasons that I advocate for better research use of administrative data. The first is that this data holds rich potential for understanding a huge range of social and economic phenomena. It enables researchers to explore issues on a large scale that just would not be possible in the absence of administrative data.
The second is that we want to see government statistics and data serve the public good, and to achieve that, it’s not enough for data to be available to guide and inform policy makers. The data must also play a wider role in generating insights – and enabling research use of administrative data is a core part of that wider role.
Is there a successful activity you have carried out in the past year as an ADR UK Ambassador that you can tell us about?
This year my team at the Office for Statistics Regulation published our review of data sharing and linkage in government. We took a sociotechnical approach. That is, we didn’t just focus on technical things like data architecture or linking algorithms. Instead, we wanted to highlight the crucial relationships a wide range of people have with linked and shared data.
Good linkage and sharing depends on the culture and perceptions not just of policymakers, analysts and academic researchers, but also of citizens, and the groups that represent them. We hope that this report can help ensure that data sharing and linkage in government moves forward, improves, and fulfils the ambition of serving the public good.
Dr Michael Fleming
Lecturer in public health at the University of Glasgow
What developments in the field of administrative data research have you been particularly excited about in the last year?
I have been very excited by the number of funded PhD studentships and fellowships being made available by ADR UK over the last 12 months, which specifically focus on using linked administrative data. Clearly, there has been a huge push to break barriers and increase capacity.
The most impressive aspect of this work is the sheer amount of linked data on offer across the four nations of the UK and across multiple sectors, such as health, education, employment and justice. This enables researchers to explore a broad range of topics and research questions, thanks to the ongoing work to make existing administrative data accessible and linkable.
What advice do you have for someone looking to make a difference as an ADR UK Ambassador?
Research using linked administrative data is already a multidisciplinary area dependent on researchers, experts, and policymakers from a variety of different backgrounds. However, for me, the main message is that the vast array of skills needed across research teams is only going to increase.
For example, as a statistician with a background in epidemiology, data linkage and data science, but no clinical background, I rely heavily on colleagues with clinical expertise. My advice would be that regardless of your background, if you are passionate about using linked administrative data for research, your skills are needed. This is about more than just the data!
Participating in the ADR UK Conference 2023
Ed Humpherson is a keynote speaker at the ADR UK Conference 2023, focusing on the theme of public engagement and involvement in population data research. Michael Fleming is a member of the scientific committee who put together the programme for the conference.
Ed, what do you hope to achieve in your role as a keynote speaker at the ADR UK Conference 2023?
Ed: I want to do what I can to champion data sharing and linkage, highlighting the findings of our report – and I want to reiterate the sociotechnical perspective.
People matter, a lot. This includes the wider public. We are most likely to see sustained success in administrative data research if we make sure we focus on that just as much as on the technical and legal requirements for delivering access to administrative data.
Michael, what are your reflections on your role as a member of the scientific committee for the ADR UK Conference 2023?
Michael: I have really enjoyed this experience. It has been inspiring to see the sheer breadth of abstracts and ideas submitted for the conference – and difficult to have to make decisions between them! I’ve enjoyed seeing first-hand how the scientific committee functions and meeting some new colleagues. There might even be a couple of collaborations in the pipeline.
I am looking forward to delivering two presentations and two workshops at the conference. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of having to miss out on some other sessions that I would have liked to attend.
The great thing about any conference, however, is the opportunity it gives for researchers to meet up and discuss ideas and forge collaborations, regardless of whether they were able to attend a presentation or not. I certainly have identified several presenters that I want to chat with. It’s going to be a busy and fun few days!
Nominate an ADR UK Ambassador
ADR UK Ambassadors are a growing cohort of professionals across the UK who are contributing to the culture change we need to make routine public good use of data a reality. If you would like to nominate a senior government or academic professional for the role of ADR UK Ambassador, please get in touch by emailing us.