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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Administrative Data 
Information about people, businesses and other organisations that is collected by any government department or agency, for delivering their day-to-day services. It can include information such as tax records, school records, health information, etc.

ADRC or Administrative Data Research Centre 
A group of universities and other academic or research institutions. The group has experience in looking after sensitive data and making them available for other researchers in a secure environment. There are four ADRCs in the UK, based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

ADRN or Administrative Data Research Network   
A collaboration between universities, the government, national statistical authorities, funders and the research community across the UK. Also referred to as 'The Network'. The purpose of the Network is to help researchers access administrative data to carry out new social and economic research in a safe and secure way.

ADS or Administrative Data Service
Coordinates the Network and is the first point of contact for researchers who want to access administrative data.

ADRN Researcher
A researcher who uses the Network and conforms to certain critaria: they must be from academia, the public sector or a research organisation on the Research Councils UK (RCUK) list of eligible Independent Research Organisations (IRO) and

(i) be a trusted ‘fit and proper’ person i.e. they must be capable of carrying out the research either independently or under the direction of an appropriate supervisor or lead investigator;

(ii) have been granted access to de-identified data by the respective Data Controller(s) on an ADRN research project;

(iii) have successfully completed ADRN Safe User of Research data Environments (SURE) training;

(iv) be backed by an Institutional Guarantor, and

(v) have signed up to the ADRN Terms of Use

A process of rendering data into a form which does not identify individual people or organisations and where identification is not likely to take place. All directly, or indirectly, identifying information, such as National Insurance Numbers, full addresses, full dates of birth, etc., is removed. In technical terms, this is not the same as de-identification, but the processes are very similar.

Anonymous data
Data that, even when combined with other sources of information in the public domain, cannot be used to find the identity of the subjects of that data (individual persons or organisations). Anonymous data are typically available to the public (i.e. open data).

Approvals Panel
Assesses whether a project can be granted access to de-identified administrative data and makes sure that the approval process is fair, equitable and transparent. Find out more about the Approvals Panel.


Data Breach
Incident in which data is unlawfully removed from a Secure Environment.
A Personal Data breach means "a Breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised Disclosure of, or access to, Personal Data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed in connection with the provisions of a public electronic communications service".

Data Collection
Can be used as a synonym for dataset, but the term includes dataset(s), documentation and metadata.

Data Controller  
A ‘person’ recognised in law, i.e. individuals, organisations, other corporate and unincorporated bodies of persons, who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which, and the manner in which, any Personal Data are, or are to be, processed.

In terms of administrative data, these are the people or organisations that collect the data in the first place, such as government departments and agencies. They can decide whether or not a researcher will be allowed to analyse the de-identified datasets. 

Data Linkage 
The process by which records about a single Data Subject across multiple Datasets are associated with each other to create a new ‘linked’ Dataset. Find out more about data linkage.

Data Matching
The process by which Direct Identifiers from different data sources are used to identify common Data Subjects. Alternatively, multiple sets of Direct Identifiers can be matched against a population spine (eg a count by age, sex and small area) to identify common Data Subjects.

Within the ADRN Data Linkage process, the output of the Data Matching process is typically a set of Matched IDs that can be used by the Linker to link the Research Data. Find out more about data linkage.

Data Owner
The legal definition of this term is: A legal entity that authorises or denies access to data for which it maintains accuracy, integrity and timeliness.

For ADRN purposes, the preferred term is Data Controller and is used as a more precise definition.

Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA)
The piece of UK legislation which regulates the processing of information relating to individuals, including the obtaining, holding, use or Disclosure of such information.

Data Provider
A ‘person’ recognised in law, i.e. individuals, organisations, other corporate and unincorporated bodies of persons, who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which, and the manner in which, any Personal Data are, or are to be, processed. Preferred term: Data Controller.

In terms of administrative data, these are the people or organisations that collect the data in the first place, such as government departments and agencies. They can decide whether or not a researcher will be allowed to analyse the de-identified datasets. 

A Quantitative Dataset is a collection of structured information on data subjects that can be numerically measured and statistically analysed, obtained using quantitative research methods such as surveys or questionnaires.

A Qualitative Dataset is a collection of unstructured information on data subjects that typically cannot be numerically measured, obtained using qualitative research methods such as interview transcripts, audio/video/digital recordings and photographic material.

Data Subjects
The individuals, households or organizations on which information (i.e. data) is collected.

The process used to prevent an individual’s identity from being connected with information that relates to them. Common strategies for de-identifying Datasets are deleting or masking personal identifiers, so Direct Identifiers such as name, postcode and date of birth, might be linked together and replaced with a unique reference. Find out more about de-identification.

De-identified Data
Extracts from Data which have undergone the process of de-identification. Find out more about de-identification.

Direct Identifiers
Variables (or sets of variables) in Datasets, such as name, address, full date of birth, postcode information telephone number and tax reference number, which can directly identify subjects.

In connection with the Data Linkage process, Direct Identifiers refer to data extracts containing only Direct Identifiers and a Project Specific Unique Identifier. Find out more about de-identification.

The act of releasing identifying information to unauthorised third parties.

Disclosure Control
Techniques used to control the risk of individuals being identified from Statistical Data. Typical methods include removing or disguising Data relating to individuals with unusual sets of attributes.
Preferred terms: Statistical Disclosure Control (input) - Statistical Disclosure Control (output). 


ESRC or Economic and Social Research Council

The UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society. It is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) established by Royal Charter in 1965 and receive most of their funding through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Find out more on the ESRC website.

Ethical Review  
A review of the ethical implications of a project and how these issues are addressed. The main aim of an Ethical Review is, as far as possible, to protect all groups involved in research: participants, institutions, funders and researchers, throughout the lifetime of the research and into the dissemination process.


Independent Research Organisation (IROs)
An organisation eligible to apply for and receive research funding by the Research Councils UK (RCUK). They usually “possess an existing in-house capacity to carry out research that materially extends and enhances the UK research base, and are able to demonstrate an independent capability to undertake and lead research programmes”. Find out more on the website of Research Councils UK.

Index Key
In the process of separating Direct Identifiers from Research Data, an index key or Project Specific Unique Identifier is typically produced. This is a number uniquely identifying a Data Subject in each Dataset without disclosing any additional information. Preferred term: Project Specific Unique Identifier. Find out more about data linkage.

Indirect Identifiers
Variables (or sets of variables) in Datasets, such as information on workplace, occupation or exceptional values of characteristics like salary or age, which, when linked with other publicly available information sources, could identify subjects.

Institutional Guarantor 
An individual, within an ADRN Researcher’s institution, with the legal status to act on behalf of that institution (e.g. the Director of Research Grants and Contracts, or equivalent post). The Institutional Guarantor is responsible for endorsing ADRN Researcher applications and accepting liability, on behalf of the institution, for any serious and/or consistent breaches of security by those researchers.


Lead Researcher 
Research is usually conducted within a team of researchers. The Lead Researcher heads the team and is either the most senior researcher or the one driving the project. For ADRN purposes, the Lead Researcher is also the single point of contact for progress updates and communication regarding the progress of the application. 

Legal Gateway
The laws which allow for access of Personal Data. Find out more about the legal framework for data sharing and analysis for research.

Linked Data
A Dataset that is created through Data Linkage. Find out more about data linkage.

Staff at an ADRC facility who perform the Data Linkage. Find out more about data linkage.

Note: The Data Linkage process is divided into Data Matching and Data Linkage.


Matched IDs 
Typically, two or more sets of Project Specific Unique Identifiers and their relation, identifying common Data Subjects in the source Datasets. Find out more about data linkage.

Staff at a TTP who perform the Data Matching. In the case of an automated Data Matching process, Matcher refers to staff managing this process. Find out more about data linkage.

Information that helps a researcher understand the Data. Typically, Metadata includes information about data type, data collector, time period, geographical coverage and sampling procedures.


Results from the data analysis that have been released by ADRC after Statistical Disclosure Control (output).

Intermediate outputs may be released during the analysis, for the purpose of improving the research. These outputs can only be shared with accredited researchers in the team. Final outputs are released for publication purposes.


Personal Data
Data which relate to a living individual who can be identified:

(a) from those Data, or

(b) from those Data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the Data Controller, and includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of theintentions of the Data Controller or any other person in respect of the individual. Where the ability to identify an individual depends partly on the Data held and partly on other information (not necessarilyData), the Data held will still be “Personal Data”.

Data are considered Personal Data if a living individual can be identified from the Data, or, from the Data in combination with other information (publicly) available.

Personal Information
Information that relates to and identifies an individual (including a body corporate) taking into account the other information derived from any other published sources (as defined in clause 39 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007).

Principal Investigator
The lead researcher of a research project. Research usually happens with a team of researchers.

Project Proposal
Research outlined in the ADRN Project Proposal form, processed by the Network, that needs to be submitted by a User to request the Data Linkage of, and/or access to, Administrative Data through the ADRN. The information the proposal provides helps to assess whether ADRN is a suitable source of Data for the project and forms the basis of any application to the Approvals Panel (AP).

Project Specific Unique Identifier
In the process of separating Direct Identifiers from Research Data, a Project Specific Unique Identifier is typically produced. This is a number uniquely identifying a Data Subject in each Dataset without disclosing any additional information.

Public Engagement
A two-way process, involving interacting with and listening to the public, with the goal of generating mutual benefit. 


Qualitative Data
Unstructured information on Data Subjects collected using research methods, such as participant observation or case studies to record people's attitudes, feelings and behaviours in greater depth, which result in a narrative, descriptive account of a setting or practice which typically cannot be numerically measured.

Quantitative Data
Structured information on Data Subjects collected using research methods, such as surveys or questionnaires which allow for the measurement of variables, within a collection of people or groups, and resulting in numerical data which can be subjected to statistical analysis.


Research Councils UK or RCUK
The strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. Each year the Research Councils invest in research covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities. Find out more on their website.

Researcher Application
The application form which needs to be completed by each researcher intending to participate in an ADRN project. The form includes details about themselves, their research and experience with accessing Sensitive Data. This information helps to assess whether they are eligible to become an ADRN Researcher as part of an ADRN approved project. The completed form is submitted to ADS via the stated Institutional Guarantor.


Safe Environment
Preferred term: Secure Environment.

Safe Setting
Preferred term: Secure Environment.

See Statistical Disclosure Control (input), Statistical Disclosure Control (output).

Secondary Data
Data that has already been collected for a purpose other than the current research project which may also have value for research. Administrative data is considered secondary data, but this may also be survey data that is re-used for new research.

Secure Access
Accessing De–identified Data within a Secure Environment.

Secure Data Centre
A facility where Data can be stored and processed securely. Access to the data centre, and the servers is controlled through appropriate physical, technical and procedural controls. Processing Data held on the server is typically carried out from a Secure Room or Safe Pod.

Secure Environment
A physical or virtual facility where an ADRN Researcher can access the administrative Data requested in their approved project proposal. This facility will be hosted at one of the ADRCs or indicated by the organisation holding the Data.

Secure environment refers to a suite of Secure Access infrastructures, including but not limited to Secure Server Room, Secure Room, Safe Pod, Secure Remote Access solutions.

Secure Room
Dedicated room used to access and process De -identified Data. The Data is typically stored in a Secure Server Room, though stand-alone secure rooms exist, in which case the Data is held locally in the room. Access to machines in the room, and the room itself is controlled through appropriate physical, technical and procedural security measures.

Security Incident
An incident in which security measures (physical, technical or procedural) are not followed or are breached.

An information security incident is a single or series of unwanted or unexpected information security events that have a significant probability of compromising business operations and threatening information security. An information security event refers to an identified occurrence of a system, service or network state indicating a possible Breach of information security policy or failure of safeguards, or a previously unknown situation that may be security relevant.

Sensitive Data
Sensitive Personal Data consisting of information as to a Data Subject’s:

(a) racial or ethnic origin

(b) political opinions

(c) religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature

(d) whether they are a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992

(e) physical or mental health or condition

(f) sexual life

(g) the commission or alleged commission by him of an offence, or

(h) any proceedings for any offence committed, or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.

A person, group or organisation with an interest or concern in an organisation. Stakeholders can affect or be affected by the organisation’s actions, objectives and policies.

Statistical Data
Information which is held in the form of numerical data, nominal data (eg gender, ethnicity, region), ordinal data (age group, qualification level), interval data (month of birth) or ratio data (age in months).

Statistical Disclosure Control (input)
Methodology used in the design of statistical products in order to protect the identity of Data Subjects.

Statistical Disclosure Control (output) 
Methodology used to check that research outputs do not disclose any identifying information before release from a Secure Environment.

Safe User of Research data Environments (SURE) Training
The training that ADRN researchers are required to complete before they can access any data provided through the ADRN to ensure that they are able to access data safely, securely and lawfully.

For training to be considered complete, the researcher must attend a SURE training session, actively engage with the training session and pass a test.

Survey Data
Survey data are data collected through surveys, typically for the purpose of producing statistics. By participating in a survey, Data Subjects may give general consent to using the data collected for research purposes.  


Trusted Third Party (TTP)  
A Trusted Third Party (TTP) performs the matching of Direct Identifiers from different data sources, or the matching of Direct Identifiers of a single data source against an existing population spline.

Within the ADRN linkage process, a TTP typically produces a set of Matched IDs that can be used by the Linker to link the Research Data

A TTP can be based at a Data Controller, or at an ADRC, in which case there needs to be a clear separation of roles between Matchers, Linkers and ADRN Researchers. 


Any person who submits a request for information or support which requires action from ADRN User Service staff. The term also includes Users of any ADRN service which includes, but is not limited to, eligible Accredited Researchers and applicants. 


Page last updated: 30/07/2018