About the Network
What was the Administrative Data Research Network? What did it do?
Firstly the Network was set up for social benefit and not as a commercial enterprise.
The Network was a partnership between UK universities, government, national statistical authorities, funders and research centres. There were four Administrative Data Research Centres, one in each of the four countries of the UK and the Administrative Data Service.
The Network delivered a service providing secure and lawful access to de-identified linked administrative data to researchers. Our work provided a structured and auditable route to allow accredited researchers to carry out research based on administrative data. Crucially, we provided a linking facility whereby the data collected from different bodies could be linked together and offer an invaluable benefit to researchers and government.
Researchers applied through the Network for permission to access administrative data from government bodies for stated research purposes. The Network helped 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 evaluated the proposals. Once a project proposal was judged as sound, the Network worked with the relevant government bodies to negotiate for permission to access and link the data. Data collections from the different bodies were matched by a trusted third party and the de-identified linked research data were 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.