open menu

Frequently Asked Questions

We try to anticipate and answer questions here from people who are interested in our work. If you want more information, or don’t find the answer you need, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

About the process

Who are the researchers and where do they come from?

We expect researchers to be from academia, charities, third sector, government or an independent research organisation recognised by our governing board. We will not currently consider proposals from researchers from commercial organisations. Every researcher will need to be accredited and every research project will be assessed by the Approvals Panel, made up of independent experts.


How does the Network handle the data?

Once a researcher and their research project have been approved, we work with data custodians to arrange secure transfer of the requested data. Once the data collections have been de-identified and linked, the source files will be securely destroyed and the resulting linked data will be made available in one of the secure rooms in a secure environment. The secure rooms have strict rules that do not permit researchers to take anything in or out of the room with them (including mobile phones, memory sticks or even pen and paper).

All information that researchers want to take out of the setting (such as analysis papers, maps etc.) can only be released if the outputs meet strict statistical disclosure control requirements. At the end of the project, the linked data will be securely destroyed in line with current best practice. 


Can I see my data?

No. The Network does not have access to identifiable data.


Why can’t members of the public see the data?

There are strict requirements about who can have access to the data. Researchers meeting our accreditation requirements will have the skills, experience and training necessary to make sense of the data and analyse it for the benefit of the public.

We want the public to understand what our researchers are doing and to benefit from it. Before they can access any data, every researcher has to show that their work will have a clear potential public benefit. When they finish their project, they have to provide a summary of their work in plain English, so we can tell people about it in non-technical language.

There are lay members both on our Governing Board and on the Approvals Panel which assesses the proposed research projects. Lay members have been drawn from the general public to represent the public’s point of view.


Can I see the results of research?

Yes. One of the conditions for using the Network is that every researcher has to provide a plain English summary of their work when their project is complete. Also, the full results need to be published in an appropriate place, such as peer-reviewed journals or on government websites that are available publicly. We will publish regular news stories on our website and issue press releases about the work which has been carried out, because we want the public to know about and understand what we do.


Is the service provided for commercial use?

No, the data cannot be used for commercial purposes. Each project goes through an assessment process by the approvals panel.

The panel checks each project for feasibility, viability, lawfulness and ethics, and makes sure:

  • the project is non-commercial
  • there is a demonstrable value in using administrative data to answer the research question
  • there is a clear potential public benefit

Is the Network’s service free for all users?

Yes, the research facilities and user support are funded by the ESRC for the benefit of the UK population. There is no cost to researchers at the point of use. The Data Controller may, however, choose to implement a cost before allowing data to be extracted.


Will international researchers be able to access the data?

International researchers will need to be affiliated with, employed by, or studying at a UK university, government department or research organisation.


Page last updated: 08/08/2017