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Administrative data in social research: building bridges with key partners

By Dr Emma White, ADRC-E Associate Director (Operations)


In early July 2016, alongside my role as Assistant Director of the Administrative Data Research Centre England, based at the University of Southampton, I took up a part-time twelve month secondment with NatCen Social Research as Head of Administrative Data.

We want this strategic collaboration to lead and support strong and successful Network projects, demonstrating the value and benefits in unlocking the power of administrative data for social research.

NatCen is Britain’s largest independent social research agency and has spent the last 40 years working on behalf of government and charities to find out what people really think about important social issues. It is one of the Research Councils UK eligible organisations for funding and conducts a considerable number of studies for non-commercial research, designed to benefit the public and society.

NatCen is also a data controller for a number of administrative data sources, and has established and well-respected experience and expertise in working with government administrative data. It carries out a number of high-profile longitudinal surveys on behalf of government agencies, such as the British Social Attitudes survey, the Health Survey for England, and the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study. Projects range across the spectrum of social research and include publications on children and young people; communities; families; crime and justice; equality and diversity; health and wellbeing; housing; income and work; schools, education and training; social and political attitudes; and transport.

We have been working together to share knowledge and learn from one another in areas like information security, data management, challenges in using administrative data for research, ethics, consent, and application of the Data Protection Act, 1988. I have also been supporting project applications approved by the Network that would like to use data for which NatCen is a data controller, explaining how the Network operates, and encouraging NatCen researchers to explore creative ways in which to work with us.

Three months in, we have laid the groundwork for a very fruitful partnership that I believe will lead to the Network and NatCen delivering social research using administrative data that meets our mutually compatible aims of ‘Better Knowledge, Better Society’ and ‘Social research that works for society’.

You can follow Emma, the Administrative Data Research Centre for England and NatCen on Twitter.


Written by Dr Emma White and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Published on 23 October 2016

Page last updated: 29/08/2017