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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What is Big Data?

Big Data seems to be a buzz term, but do we really understand much about it or what it can do to help us?

In October and November 2016, the Administrative Data Research Network, in collaboration with the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre and the Human Rights, Technology and Big Data Research Centre, organised five panel discussions for the public at the University of Essex, about the different ways in which big data can influence our society.

Definition used

Big Data has many definitions, but for the purpose of this event series, we wanted to explain it as clearly and succinctly as possible. As such, Big Data consists of extremely large and/or complex datasets that may be analysed by computers to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

Administrative data can be considered a form of big data, as they are often large and complex datasets which contain information about many people and organisations. These data are usually collected by the government while they render services to people and businesses. But because of the detailed information they contain, administrative datasets can be an amazing source for research, too.

Charities, Humanitarian Action and Big Data: Friend or Foe?

Discover how charities are using Big Data, both at home and abroad, from verifying human rights violations to predicting humanitarian disasters.

Introducer: Prof. Lorna McGregor, Director of the Human Rights Centre and Co-Director of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, University of Essex

Chair: Prof. Geoff Gilbert, Professor of Law and Deputy of the 'Advancing human Rights and Humanitarian Responses' Work Stream of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, University of Essex.

Speakers: Wendy Betts (Director, eyeWitness to Atrocities), Joanne Mariner (Senior Crisis Response Advisor, Amnesty International) and Duncan Ross (Director, DataKind)

Big Data in Business: Help or Hindrance?

Big Data exists in businesses from the local shop to multinational corporations. This panel explores the opportunities to use this data to empower business and enhance public policy.

Introducer: Prof. Vania Sena, Director of the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre, University of Essex

Chair: Prof. Neil Kellard, Head of the Finance Group, Professor in Finance, University of Essex

Speakers: Jasmine Birtles (Founder of, Ian Hutchinson (Lead Software Developer, Projects by IF) and Prof. Helen Simpson (Professor of Economics, University of Bristol)

Changing lives through big data research

Already data is making a difference to people across the UK. Hear more about how, where and why research is using Big Data.

Introducer: Prof. Sasha Roseneil, Executive Dean Social Science, University of Essex

Chair: Prof. Katherine McNeill, Functional Director, UK Data Archive

Speakers: Sharon Witherspoon (Acting Head of Policy for the Academy of Social Sciences and the Campaign for Social Science in March 2016), Patrick Guthrie (Head of Public Service REform, Essex County Council) and Professor Mounia Lalmas (Director of Research, Yahoo! London)

Big Data, Big Brother?

Do organisations know too much about us? Our personal data is worth more than ever before. Explore privacy in the digital age.

Introducer: Tanvi Desai, Co-Director of the Administrative Data Service.

Chair: Dr. Daragh Murray, Deputy of the Surveillance and Human Rights Work Stream of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project and Lecturer at the University of Essex.

Speakers: Andrew Stott (former Director for Transparency and Digital Engagement for the UK Government and member of the Public Sector Transparency Board), Gus Hosein (Executive Director of Privacy International) and Dr. Nathan Lea (Senior Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics).

Big Data and society: is it a game changer?

Why is Big Data hailed as the answer to so many big questions? 

Introducer: Prof. Sasha Roseneil, Executive Dean Social Sciences at the University of Essex

Chair: Lynn Wyeth, Head of Information Governance & Risk at Leicester City Council

Speakers: CB John Pullinger (UK National Statistician), Lord David Willetts (former Minister for Universities and Science) and Prof. Heather Laurie (Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Professor of Sociology, University of Essex)

Page last updated: 19/06/2017