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On the value of data sharing - and sharing information about data

by Kishan Patel, PhD student, ADRC Northern Ireland, Queen's University Belfast

Earlier this month I had the chance to attend and present at the data research event held by ADRC-NI in collaboration with DetailData. It was a great opportunity to showcase my own research whilst also learning more about how different types of data are being use to answer other researchers’ questions.

Much like my own research, this workshop focussed on the value of data – both open data and administrative data - in studying mental health.

As someone who was previously unaware of DetailData, I found the first few talks particularly interesting. DetailData is an open data project facilitated by NICVA (the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) and, an investigative journalism outlet. Through a number of talks I learned about the project’s emphases on making access to Northern Ireland-specific datasets widely available; providing data training opportunities for the voluntary and community sector; and encouraging data-based investigative journalism.

We were made aware of some of the ongoing projects being carried out by researchers involved with DetailData, and were given a quick demonstration of how to access and use some of the datasets available to the public. Some of the datasets which could be particularly useful for me are those that document suicide deaths, GP prescribing records and drug and alcohol treatment services. I’ll definitely be thinking about how I can implement the data that DetailData have made available next time I develop a research project.

After hearing more about the ADRN and how other affiliated researchers are using administrative data to research mental ill-health, it was time for me to give my talk. My research focuses on the link between migration and health, so I spoke about my plans to conduct a record-linkage study using the 2011 census of Northern Ireland and psychotropic prescription records from 2000-2014. I explained my 4 major research strands/questions: 1) explore the socio-demography of migrants in Northern Ireland; 2) explore the relationship between migrant status and self-reported mental-ill health; 3) explore the relationship between migrant status and severity of mental ill-health; 4) assess how well the mental health requirements of migrants are met through the Northern Irish health services.

Of course, administrative data is vital for my research, but I also mentioned some of the shortcomings of the datasets I’ll be using. For example, there will be a proportion of people that are ‘self-medicating’ to help cope with mental-ill health, who go underrepresented in the prescription datasets. Using the data that has been made available by DetailData will help me to start exploring how many people we might be missing.

All in all, the day was very useful for me and everybody that I spoke to after the presentations were over. I think affiliates of both the ADRN and DetailData took a lot away from the workshop, and the relationship that is being built between both parties can only lead to positive outcomes.

Written by Kishan Patel from ADRC-Northern Ireland and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Images used with permission.

Published on 22 May 2017


Page last updated: 22/06/2017