Linked data, longer Fellowships: scope of Data First call expanded

The new ‘linking dataset’, due to be available to researchers via the Office for National Statistics’ Secure Research Service from the end of October, will allow researchers to join up information from the de-identified magistrates’ and Crown Court datasets. Used in combination with the two court datasets, it serves as a lookup to show where records refer to the same people and cases. It does not itself contain additional information about people or their court appearances.

Providing this linking data will allow new and more complex analysis, building up a fuller picture of defendants’ interactions with the criminal courts, and how individual cases progress through the criminal court system from end to end.

The deadline for Fellowship applications remains 20 October 2020. Any applicants who may have already started work on their proposals will be able to amend these to make use of the linking dataset and extra time now available, if they wish, but are under no obligation to do so – ADR UK and MoJ also remain keen to receive applications to use the individual court datasets, alongside those that may look to exploit the opportunities provided by linkage.

The objectives of the Research Fellowship scheme remain the same:

  • Useful research: to demonstrate the potential of administrative data research for public policy impact.
  • Useful data: to develop the data as a useful research resource for future users.
  • Useful engagement: to foster opportunities between academia and government that allow fresh thinking to flourish, and to maintain public acceptance for the use of data for research purposes.

We are particularly keen to receive proposals to explore the nature and extent of repeat court use, the relationship between sentencing and repeat court use, and/or the relationship between court experiences and outcomes in relation to demographic characteristics such as age and ethnicity. However, this is not a comprehensive or restrictive set of interests and applications exploring further topics will also be considered.

Funding will be awarded up to a maximum of £130,000 (full economic cost), to be pro-rated depending on project duration, with a start date no later than 15 May 2021.

For full details of the call, funding conditions, assessment criteria and application process, please consult the updated Full Call Specification, Frequently Asked Questions, and Je-S application guidance. Any additions made to these documents in light of this announcement have been clearly marked, and only extend the existing opportunity rather than change it.


The datasets

The magistrates' court defendant case level dataset contains data on court use between 2011 and 2019, and the Crown Court defendant case level dataset contains data on court use between 2013 and 2019. This data will provide insight into the magistrates’ and Crown Court user populations, including the nature and extent of repeat use. It will enable researchers to, for the first time, establish whether a defendant has entered the courts on more than one occasion, and support better policy to reduce frequent use of the courts. Both datasets have been de-identified and de-duplicated. The linking dataset will allow users to join up information between the magistrates’ and Crown Court datasets.

To help with proposals, synthetic magistrates’ and Crown Court datasets can be requested from This synthetic data is fake, and any outputs created will be meaningless. However, the data is structurally mirrored where the variables and allowed values reflect what would be in the real data hosted on the ONS SRS.

Further information about these datasets, and the new ‘linking dataset’, can be found in the Data First User guide and Data Catalogues on

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