Funding opportunity: Evaluating the benefits, costs and utility of synthetic data

Categories: Funding opportunities, ADR UK Partnership

18 August 2023

This funding opportunity is a joint initiative from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Data & Infrastructure Programme and ADR UK and is a revised version of a call run earlier this year.  

To find out more about the opportunity, register for an applicant webinar on 14 September 2023 at 13:00. 

Applications will close on 26 October 2023. 

Projects will begin in early March 2024 and last for 12 months. 


The vision of this funding opportunity is to collect evidence and insights on the benefits, costs and utility of low-fidelity synthetic data from the perspective of three stakeholder groups. 

Low-fidelity synthetic data is defined as artificial data that has been created to reflect the format of the original data (its layout and the types of information it contains) but without preserving any relationships between variables. This means it contains no data about real individuals. It can be generated quickly and can be used for training and to develop and test code.  

The three complementary projects funded by this opportunity will consider synthetic data from the perspectives of: 

  1. researchers – the effect of having synthetic data available
  2. data owners and trusted research environments – the benefits, costs and mechanisms for providing synthetic data
  3. the public – their understanding of and attitudes towards synthetic data. 

The evidence and insights from these projects will inform recommendations for operationalising scaled production and sharing of synthetic data in a way that is efficient and acceptable to the public, data owners and to researchers.  

Funding and scope 

The total funding available across the three projects is £375,000 for 12 months. The ESRC and ADR UK will fund 80% of the full economic cost (up to £300,000 total).  

The funding will be divided into roughly equal portions to support the three complementary projects. They are:  

Project 1:  Benefits, costs and utility of low-fidelity synthetic data for researchers 

The grant holder will evaluate the impact of these (and other) low-fidelity synthetic datasets on researchers’ experiences of carrying out research using secure data 

Project 2:  Costs and benefits of low-fidelity synthetic data for data owners and trusted research environments 

The grant holder will: 

  • Evaluate the broad set of costs to data owners and trusted research environments associated with creating low-fidelity synthetic data, using different models 
  • Evaluate the utility of different models for sharing synthetic data 
  • Evaluate any improvements in efficiency for data owners and trusted research environments when synthetic data is available. 

Project 3:  Public understanding of and attitudes towards low-fidelity synthetic data 

The grant holder will design and run a public consultation on understanding of and attitudes towards synthetic data. 

Read the full details of the objectives and outputs on UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Funding Finder

Applicants can apply for funding to work on one or more of the three projects outlined above. Each project will only be funded once to ensure that each stakeholder perspective is covered.   

Successful applicants will be expected to work collaboratively with other grant holders funded through this opportunity.  

The following existing low-fidelity synthetic datasets should be used as a foundation for this work, although the inclusion of others in addition to these is welcome: 

  • Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings,  

  • Grading and Admissions Data for England,  

  • Criminal Justice (magistrates’ and Crown Court) datasets 

  • Hospital Episode Statistics 

  • the National Pupil Database and Longitudinal Education Outcomes (expected to become available early 2024) 

Please note that the creation of new synthetic data is not the focus of this funding call. 

Applicant webinar 

To find out more about this opportunity, register to join our applicant webinar on Thursday 14 September, 13:00-14:00. You will hear a short presentation outlining the background, key objectives, expected deliverables, and application process for this opportunity. There will also be time for questions. This webinar will be recorded and shared on this page. 


We welcome proposals from individuals or small teams of researchers from eligible research organisations, as per the Economic and Social Research Council’s standard eligibility criteria.  

This funding opportunity is a revised version of one advertised earlier this year following applicant and expert feedback. Previous applicants are welcome to submit a new application in line with the requirements of this revised version. 

Key dates 

Applications open 

18 August 2023 

Applicant webinar 

14 September 2023, 13:00-14:00 

Applications close 

26 October 2023, 16:00 

How to apply 

For more details on this funding opportunity including the application process, visit the UKRI Funding Finder.

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