The Administrative Data Research Network was an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 to July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, which was launched at the end of 2018.

Visit the Administrative Data Research Partnership for further information. 

This archival website reflects the state of play at the end of the project in July 2018. All content has been frozen and may not be up to date.

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Frequently Asked Questions

About the data

What do you mean by ‘administrative data’?

The term ‘Administrative data’ refers to information collected primarily for administrative purposes (not research). This type of data is collected by government departments and other organisations for registration, transactions and record keeping, usually when delivering a service (such as TV licence fees) and record keeping (such as tracking exam grades and also routine public data collection such as the National Census).

What are the benefits of using administrative data?

Using administrative data for research can help us to understand social and economic trends from across the UK or within neighbourhoods. It can help improve the provision of services such as social housing, and help policy makers to be more effective in how they look after people’s health and wellbeing by understanding where health needs lie and what treatments work best for which types of people.

This type of research can look at data from before and after policy changes are made, to assess their impact. For example, whether the smoking ban damaged the pub trade, or new taxes have given rise to more or less social inequality.

Re-using existing data is more efficient. It speeds up the process of carrying out research on government policy and reduces our reliance on more expensive methods of collecting data such as surveys. For example, it may not be necessary to conduct a house-to-house survey about home occupancy if the information about who is paying which taxes or receiving which benefits is already available in a database.

Linking routinely collected administrative data can:

  • reduce the cost of undertaking surveys
  • reduce the burden on respondents
  • add to information that has already been collected and thereby enrich it

Where do administrative data collections come from?

Data are collected when the government is providing a service, either at national level (such as taxes, births and deaths) or local level (including housing and welfare) – or particular services such as the regional courts or national police database. These collections are held by government departments and agencies, which we refer to as data custodians or data owners.

How do you make sure the information is accurate?

We use existing government administrative data collections that follow strict standards for data quality. Data accuracy is important, and is itself an active area of research.

Page last updated: 27/07/2018