ADR UK funds major new data linkage projects to address vital policy questions

Covering a diverse range of topics – from environment and health to growing old – these investments will help to fill gaps in evidence and address pressing policy needs. Project teams will develop and link together de-identified datasets, as well as ensuring simplified access to these datasets via ADR UK’s trusted research environments. 

These projects will join and expand the existing ADR England portfolio, comprising an innovative collection of data linkage and research projects for public good, covering England and the wider UK. 

Projects have been assessed and selected in close partnership with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and datasets created will be available for accredited researchers to apply to use in the ONS Secure Research Service

Data made available to researchers to facilitate these projects has been de-identified, and rigorous safeguards are in place to ensure data security. Read more about our ethical use of data

These projects form part of a wider group of successful grant recipients as part of the research-ready data and access funding opportunity. More information on the remaining funded projects will become available soon. 

Dr Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK said: “It has never been more important that we realise the full potential of administrative data to fill gaps in evidence across society. These ambitious research-ready data projects will create groundbreaking new resources, which researchers will be able to access securely and use to address some of the most pressing challenges we face. I’m excited to see the outcomes as this work develops.”  

Bill South, Acting Deputy Director, Research Services and Data Access division at the Office for National Statistics, said: “We’ve been delighted to see some of the initial flagship data linkage projects at the heart of the ADR UK vision come to fruition and are now looking forward to progressing a new round of Research-Ready Data projects, including those linking to 2021 Census data.” 

About the projects 

The impact of environments on children’s health and education 

University College London 

This project will establish a new data resource to allow researchers to study the link between environments in and around schools and homes, and children’s health and education. 

De-identified health and education data for children born in England from 2006 onwards will be linked to information about their mother’s health during pregnancy. The project team will combine this information with data on the local environments of children’s schools and homes. This will enable new research into how factors such as living near busy roads, growing up in an overcrowded house, or having access to parks and local services influence children’s health and schooling. 

To show how the data can be used, the team will carry out an initial study to explore: 

  • whether living or going to school near green space helps young people’s mental health 

  • whether living in areas with good childcare provision is related to children’s outcomes at school. 

Ultimately, research using this data will inform government departments, local councils and the public about how well housing, environmental and planning policies are working to improve children and young people’s lives. 

Project timeline: July 2022 – June 2025 

Total funding: £1,147,058.25 (full economic cost (FEC)) 

Connecting administrative vehicle data for research on sustainable transport  

University of Leeds and University of Bristol 

Cars and vans are significant contributors to air pollution and climate change. This project will enable analysis of issues and trends relating to use of these vehicles at a national, regional and local level. 

The project team will develop and link two data sources focused on the registration and usage patterns of all light duty vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) in Great Britain, to create a single de-identified, research-ready dataset. This dataset will be comprised of: 

  • registration data collected by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which records vehicle attributes and the location of the registered keeper 

  • MOT data, which includes the make, model, age, engine type and odometer reading of every vehicle taking a road worthiness test in Great Britain. 

By combining this data, the project will create an invaluable resource for researchers to address urgent transport, environmental and social policy questions. Research using this data will have the potential to inform government action on climate change, air quality and health, road safety and taxation. 

Project timeline: July 2022 – March 2026 

Total funding: £1,035,716 (FEC) 

Development and enhancement of the Longitudinal Education Outcomes dataset 

UCL, Centre for Education Policy & Equalising Opportunities 

The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset brings together data on education experiences in schools, further education and higher education, with tax and benefit records. It enables analysis of journeys through education and training and into the labour market for people in England. The dataset is currently available for accredited researchers in the ONS Secure Research Service. 

In partnership with the LEO programme team at the Department for Education (DfE) and colleagues at the University of Warwick and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this project will contribute to the development and enhancement of the LEO dataset. Work will include producing and enhancing supporting materials to make the dataset more accessible to researchers, such as documentation, facilitation of an online research community in partnership with DfE, and provision of training events.  

The project team will also work with DfE in linking new data on where individuals work and on university applications and offers, enabling new insight into a range of policy-relevant questions, including the drivers of education and labour market inequalities. 

Working with DfE to enhance the dataset in this way will increase its potential to inform important policy areas, including productivity, access to opportunities and levelling up. 

Project timeline: July 2022 – March 2026 

Total funding: £719,523 (FEC) 

Linking local authority and healthcare providers’ data on children and young people in London  

Imperial College London 

With the aim of addressing serious challenges facing children’s social care, education and health services in England, this project will create a new research-ready dataset. This resource will link de-identified data held on children by: 

  • local authorities, including education and social care data 

  • health services, including primary, secondary, mental health and community care. 

It will begin with eight local authorities in North West London before being scaled up to create a pan-London dataset. 

Two pathfinder projects will show how the dataset can guide policy and spending decisions: one will develop information on looked after children in each local authority. The other will demonstrate the value of the dataset in addressing key policy questions around how interventions in one sector impact outcomes in another, for example, whether early support from mental health services improves later outcomes for looked after children. 

The long-term aim of this work is for other researchers to use the new dataset for a wide range of research projects, which will lead to more evidence-based and effective policies and services for children and young people. 

Project timeline: July 2022 – June 2025 

Total funding: £482,757.79 (FEC) 

Enhancement of ECHILD with a mother-child and Unique Property Reference Number link 

University College London 

ECHILD (Education and Child Health Insights from Linked Data) is an existing ADR UK investment which aims to create the first research-ready database linking health, education and social care data for all children in England. This represents a powerful resource to analyse children’s experiences and inform policy that benefits them. 

This new stage of funding will enhance the existing ECHILD resource by linking information about children’s family contexts. The project team will complete this enhancement by adding the mother-baby link, routinely used in health data, to link longitudinal data on children to their mother and siblings. The team will also assess the feasibility of linking individuals to their place of residence using the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN). 

This new linkage will allow researchers to analyse the influence of parental, household and sibling characteristics on child health trajectories, their education, and their contact with social care. Insights created will have the potential to inform vital policy questions on how factors like maternal health or family violence influence child health, school outcomes and additional needs. 

Project timeline: June 2022 – May 2024 

Total funding: £335,577.78 (FEC) 

Dynamics in private pension saving  

Institute for Fiscal Studies 

This project will produce new, unique datasets on private pension saving that are high-quality and accessible for research. These datasets will enable researchers to study important policy questions, such as: what are the factors that affect how people save for retirement? 

Two related datasets will be created by linking all administrative data on annual contributions to personal pensions to: 

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE) panel tax records 

  • Self-Assessment panel tax records. 

Together, these datasets will provide new insights into the links between earnings and pension savings for employees, as well as for the self-employed and high-income individuals – groups which are currently under-analysed due to data limitations. The project team will produce documentation to support researchers in accessing the datasets, along with high-profile research to highlight their value. 

Research using this data has the potential to inform government decisions on pensions policy, as well as related issues such as housing benefits and tax, to improve the lives of older people. 

Project timeline: October 2022 – December 2024 

Total funding: £178,666.17 (FEC) 

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