open menu

Frequently Asked Questions

We try to anticipate and answer questions here from people who are interested in our work. If you want more information, or don’t find the answer you need, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

What is the Administrative Data Research Network? What does it do?

Firstly the Network has been set up for social benefit and is not a commercial enterprise.

The Network is a partnership between UK universities, government, national statistical authorities, funders and research centres. There are four Administrative Data Research Centres, one in each of the four countries of the UK and the Administrative Data Service.

The Network delivers a service providing secure and lawful access to de-identified linked administrative data to researchers. Our work provides a structured and auditable route to allow accredited researchers to carry out research based on administrative data. Crucially, we provide a linking facility whereby the data collected from different bodies can be linked together and offer an invaluable benefit to researchers and government.

Researchers apply through the Network for permission to access administrative data from government bodies for stated research purposes. The Network helps researchers to develop their proposals and make sure they are ethical, feasible, and fulfil the requirement to provide demonstrable potential public benefit.

An Approvals Panel of independent experts then evaluates the proposals. Once a project proposal is judged as sound, the Network works with the relevant government bodies to negotiate for permission to access and link the data. Data collections from the different bodies are matched by a trusted third party and the de-identified linked research data are held in a secure environment at one of the research centres.

The Network trains researchers to understand their responsibilities for protection of privacy, confidentiality, and data protection and makes sure they employ best practice to handle and analyse the data securely.

Trained researchers travel to one of our secure facilities to conduct their data analyses. Their work is overseen by the Network’s specialist support staff and their results evaluated to make sure there is no risk of privacy infringement.

Where does your funding come from?

The Network is the first part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s investment in ‘big data’. The ESRC is funded by government, but independent. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. It announced the funding in October 2013, and its website has further information on big data.


Page last updated: 05/05/2017