Over £7 million for government data project

18 October 2013

Quad in Autumn

UCL is part of a consortium that has been awarded £7.6 million to provide academic researchers with access to government data.

The new Administrative Data Research Centre for England (ADRC) will enable information collected by government departments and other agencies, such as tax, education and health data, to be shared with researchers. The centre, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will support approved academic projects and use anonymised data, accessed in a secure environment.

Professor Ruth Gilbert, Deputy Director of the ADRC at UCL, says: “By harnessing the power of these large datasets for research we hope to improve understanding of people’s lives and to build a stronger evidence base for policy and service development in the UK. We will have unprecedented access to information that will help us tackle some of the most pressing issues in society.”

The Administrative Data Research Centre for England will be led by Professor Peter Smith at the University of Southampton and run in collaboration with UCL, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of London’s Institute of Education. It will be one of four such centres for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which with the newly formed Administrative Data Service (ADS) acting as a ‘gatekeeper’ to the research data, will form the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN).

We hope to improve understanding of people’s lives and to build a stronger evidence base for policy and service development in the UK. We will have unprecedented access to information that will help us tackle some of the most pressing issues in society.

Professor Ruth Gilbert, Deputy Director of the ADRC at UCL

The four ADRCs and the ADS will benefit from a grants package totalling approximately £34 million from the ESRC. This represents the first phase of £64 million of ESRC funding of investment in Big Data, to support the development of a network of innovative centres to strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in this field.

Professor Graham Hart, Dean of the Faculty of Population Health Sciences at UCL, says: “Our contribution to the University of Southampton-led ADRC bid focused on the relationship between health and other administrative data sources, namely in education, social care, work and criminal justice. I’m delighted that our collaborative approach to these major bids has once more been rewarded by success. 

“Professor Harry Hemingway led on our successful CHAPTER bid to the Medical Research Council for the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, and now Professor Ruth Gilbert is the UCL lead for this complementary ESRC investment,” continues Professor Hart. “Both initiatives now need to be supported by government departments by facilitating access to administrative data. There is also a pressing need for a programme of public engagement so that citizens can understand and help contribute to the scientific breakthroughs that data linkage will deliver.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC, says: “We are delighted to have played a leading role in the development of the national ADRN that will strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in Big Data. The core aim of the ADRN is to facilitate linkage of routinely collected administrative data, thereby stimulating opportunities for innovative research and policy-making. There will be benefits for researchers, government, local communities and the public – indeed; there is the potential for a revolution in our ability to answer a host of questions that were previously intractable.”

The project has initial funding for five years.

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Media contact: David Weston


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