ADR UK and OSR publish research report on public perceptions of public good use of data for research and statistics

Although the public regularly cite the public good use of data for research and statistics as a core condition of their support for data sharing and use, there is no consensus on how public good is understood by the public. This research sought to address this through a deliberate dialogue exploring public perceptions of ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics. 

With the support of Kohlrabi Consulting, an independent research company, workshops with members of the public were held in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast and online. A prominent theme to emerge from these was the desire for public-facing communication about the use of data for research and statistics to be clear and accessible, with best practice safeguarding principles adopted more widely to increase confidence in data disclosure. 

Five key findings emerged from discussions which took place with a diverse sample of participants: 

  • Public involvement: Members of the public want to be involved in making decisions about whether public good is being served 

  • Real-world needs: Research and statistics should aim to address real-world needs, including those that may impact future generations and those that only impact a small number of people 

  • Clear communication: To serve the public good, there should be proactive, clear, and accessible public-facing communication about the use of data and statistics (to better communicate how evidence informs decision-making) 

  • Minimise harm: Public good means data collected for research and statistics should minimise harm (and not contribute to anything harmful), including an awareness of unintended harmful consequences of the misrepresentation of data research and statistics 

  • Best practice safeguarding: Universal application of best practice safeguarding principles to ensure secure access to data should help people feel confident to disclose data 

These research findings are the result of 24 hours of discussion with the public with in-person workshops in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, and London, and an online workshop. ADR UK and OSR believe it is integral to engage with the public to develop a complete understanding of the public good and will work to understand how these findings can best be implemented to achieve maximum impact. 

Dr Emma Gordon, Director, ADR UK, said: “This public dialogue is a milestone for the programme. The insights generated from this work will be carefully considered as we seek to inform practices across the ADR UK programme.” 

Ed Humpherson, Director General of Regulation, Office for Statistics Regulation, said: “This report presents fascinating and novel insights into an important subject and makes a strong contribution to our understanding of how the public perceive the public good of data for research and statistics"

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