ADR UK-sponsored event explores the value of admin data, from Covid-19 responses to a better justice system

Data Bites is a series of events exploring the ways in which government can make better use of data, to improve services and people’s lives. Each speaker is given eight minutes to talk, followed by another eight minutes to answer questions from the audience. Scroll down for a video recording of the event for those who missed it.

Event attendees had the exclusive opportunity to hear from and engage with leading government and public sector data experts including: 

Andrew Morris kicked off the event, discussing the importance of health data science in the Covid-19 era and exploring options and opportunities for the UK in using data in response to the pandemic. Morris stressed the importance of a “robust, trustworthy health and data and social care research infrastructure… not only in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in preparedness for future pandemics”. He also spoke on the need for global collaboration in responding to the crisis, highlighting a necessity to “think locally but act globally” in using data to combat the challenge posed by Covid-19, referencing HDR UK’s recent launch of the International Covid-19 Data Research Alliance & Workbench.

Kirby Swales and Lan-Ho Man followed, on the potential of linked administrative data in social policy programmes. With reference to MHCLG's Troubled Families programme – one of the largest social policy programmes in the UK with a budget of over £1 billion since 2015 and run through 149 upper tier local authority areas in England – they highlighted the value of linked administrative data in evaluating the effectiveness of widescale social policy programmes. They explained how analysis of linked administrative data relating to different areas of life can provide a better understanding of need and demand for services in local areas. They also highlighted how more efficient use of data can help local authorities identify risks and prevent problems before they happen for families on the Troubled Families programme, as well as those who may not be known to services.

"Although data used by researchers is anonymised, the social licence is important for trustworthiness."

Kerina Jones, Professor of Population Data Science, Swansea University

Next on the bill were Professor Betsy Stanko and Amy Summerfield, showcasing the potential of Data First – MoJ’s pioneering data-linking programme, funded by ADR UK – for developing a better understanding of what works in supporting users of the justice system. They described the main benefits of the Data First project, with a focus on justice being “about people and people’s needs for state help”. On the importance of linking together data from across different areas of the justice system, Stanko described the benefits as being “very much for people, the citizenry, to have a better justice system, to have a fair justice system… Better data for better justice.”

Kerina Jones closed the event, moving the discussion to information governance and the importance of public engagement around the use of population-level data for research. Jones described ‘population data science’ as “the science of data about people”, distinguishing it from data science and informatics as being “more about people than data science, and more about data than informatics”. She described public engagement as therefore being key to the discipline and introduced the “privacy by design” approach of Swansea University’s Population Data Science department. “Although data used by researchers is anonymised, the social licence is important for trustworthiness,” explained Jones.

For those who missed it, a live recording of the event can be found below. The schedule of speakers is as follows:

  • Introduction by Gavin Freeguard (00:00:00-00:08:20)
  • Andrew Morris (00:08:20-00:29:36)
  • Kirby Swales and Lan-Ho Man (00:29:43-00:49:03)
  • Betsy Stanko and Amy Summerfield (00:49:05 -01:07:17)
  • Kerina Jones (01:07:20-01:25:54)


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