Before researchers begin making an application, it’s worth looking at whether this way of getting access to administrative data is the right thing for their research project.
For the project
An Approvals Panel evaluates the requests for data, and considers them on the basis of their potential benefit to society. So, researchers need to:
- show that the information they need is not already available elsewhere in a more accessible form
- provide convincing evidence that the data they are asking for are essential to the research aims
Any research project using the ADRN will have to show that it needs to access de-identified unit-level administrative data, which may involve more than one source of data. However, not all the data sources have to be administrative records. Researchers may, for example, want to link administrative and survey data.
- be for non-commercial research purposes
- demonstrate clear scientific merit and potential public benefit
- show that they requires unit level administrative data to answer the research question
The ADRN will also check that the project would not be more appropriately served by other existing data services (such as FARR, UKDS Secure Lab, Longitudinal Studies, HMRC Data Lab, etc.), and that it isn't research which a government department or agency would carry out as part of its normal operations.
All projects must meet strict criteria to qualify for access to linked, de-identified administrative data. The Approvals Panel, made up of external, independent experts, makes sure the process is fair, equitable and transparent.
They will consider five aspects of your proposal:
- Is the project feasible?
- Are there any relevant privacy implications?
- Has the project been through a formal ethical review?
- Is there potential public benefit?
- Is there demonstrable scientific merit?
Sometimes the Approvals Panel will reject a project, if one or more of these criteria are not sufficiently met. The ADRN publishes a quarterly overview with summary information about the reasons why a project was rejected, which can be found here.
For the research team
To use services to access data in our secure environments, researchers must:
- be from academia, the public sector, community or voluntary sector, or a research organisation that is eligible for Research Councils UK funding
- be capable of carrying out the research either independently or under the direction of an appropriate supervisor or lead investigator
Researchers also need to supply the name of an institutional guarantor affiliated to their institution, who will be required to countersign their application.
ONS Approved Researchers
ONS Approved researcher still need to meet the requirements stated above and complete the ADRN Researcher Application form. The Network has additional requirements compared to the ONS Approved Researcher scheme, which were implemented after speaking with the public during the development of the Network.
However, the Network collaborates closely with the ONS and was consulted on the ONS’s new Approved Researcher scheme.
The Network and ONS work to:
- deliver harmonised training on secure data access (the SURE training course)
- seek to harmonise controls where possible
- share information on any data misuse by an individual researcher and use this to deny ADRN Researcher status
PhD students and junior researchers
The ADRN welcomes applications from PhD students or junior researchers. Please be aware, however, that getting access to the data may take anything from 6 to 18 months, so if the research must be concluded on a tight deadline, it may be better to find another data source for your research.
Given our policies and procedures on secure access, PhD students and junior researchers
- will need to attend and successfully complete our researcher training
- will need to be part of an approved project team which includes at least one member with the appropriate knowledge to supervise the work
- for PhD students, their supervisor will be asked to countersign the application