Celebrating public engagement: Highlights from ADR England

Categories: Blogs, Public engagement, ADR England, ADR UK Partnership

Written by Shayda Kashef 24 October 2022

The ADR UK Public Engagement Strategy was born out of a collective effort from the ADR UK Public Engagement Steering Group. It describes a series of objectives and principles to support ADR UK’s mission to be a trustworthy programme of work that seeks to maximise the public good use of administrative data for research. But what does this look like in practice? To celebrate one year since its publication, we are launching a blog series to highlight public engagement work from across the ADR UK partnership. Each blog will be authored by a member of the Public Engagement Steering Group.  

To kick off, in this blog series I will cover highlights from ADR England and a UK-wide public dialogue I undertook on behalf of the ADR UK partnership with Dr Mary Cowan, Research Specialist at the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). 

ADR England 

Public engagement at ADR UK entails a bespoke programme of work that is purposeful and relevant to each national partner’s research needs. The ADR England portfolio has developed core engagement through community representative panels. Specifically, these include the Children and Young People Representative Panel and the Data First User Representative Panel. They are made of representatives from third sector organisations who can speak for, or on behalf, of those represented in our data. 

Panel members play a vital role in shaping ADR UK research fellowships at every stage of development. This includes things from advising on the scope of a funding opportunity to speaking directly with ADR UK-funded research fellows about the practical applications of their research findings. Their expertise also broadens our understanding of what research priorities and ethical considerations ought to be considered by those analysing ADR UK data. 

So far, three reports have been published this year which captured roundtable discussions between third sector stakeholders, including and sometimes in addition to panel members, and ADR UK project partners on the following datasets: 

Where ADR UK projects fall beyond the scope of these panels, project leads have developed their own advisory groups, such as the Wage & Employment Dynamics Public Engagement Strategy Group. More bespoke groups will be developed in the coming year with the expansion of the ADR England portfolio

Strengthening existing partnerships and building new relationships with the third sector offers a variety of other benefits to research using administrative data. Third sector organisations typically have established policy links, as many exist to improve or reform existing policies for particular groups of people. Some also undertake their own research, often qualitative, which can strengthen quantitative findings with voices represented in the data. This is why working with the third sector is such an important part of our public engagement strategy. 


This year I had the privilege of representing ADR UK in a collaborative project with Dr Mary Cowan, Research Specialist at the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). We were tasked with undertaking a UK-wide public dialogue to explore public perceptions of ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics.  

We had a first-hand experience of designing and observing a series of workshops with members of the public we wouldn’t ordinarily engage with. We heard a range of views from diverse groups of people which helped broaden our own understandings. This type of engagement was a milestone for both ADR UK and OSR. Working collaboratively also strengthened our research journey by creating a space for us to learn from one another and interrogate our own practices and processes.  You can read more about that in a recent blog jointly written by me and Mary, and the full report on the ADR UK website. 

This dialogue, and the collaboration of our two organisations, came about because we had both been working independently on deepening our understanding of public good use of data for research and statistics. In 2020 ADR UK published a review of public attitudes towards the sharing and linking of administrative data for research. Similarly, OSR also published a review in 2020 exploring the public good use of statistics. Much like ADR UK, their vision is for statistics to serve the public good. So, it was a natural pairing for us to work together to explore public perceptions of ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics.  

Looking to the future 

There is a lot in the pipeline for both ADR England and the ADR UK partnership. Without giving too much away, we are looking forward to strengthening our work with the third sector; testing ideas for civic engagement; and exploring new ways to continue to engage with members of the public, including those unfamiliar with administrative data. Watch this space! 

More from this blog series:

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