New funding for the Department for Education will drive up use of linked education data for policy-relevant research

There is already sustained academic demand for DfE data, with hundreds of accredited researchers using datasets for approved research projects. This demand will grow further as more research-ready data becomes available. More than half of all new applications to access DfE administrative data are approved by the DfE, for access through the ONS Secure Research Service, using DfE legislation. Following the successful launch of access to research-ready Longitudinal Education Outcomes data in July 2021, the DfE is committed to making more research-ready data assets available in the ONS Secure Research Service. So, ADR UK is funding a new DfE Data Access and Engagement Programme.

The data access element of this programme will make it easier and faster for accredited researchers to gain access to the data they need. The DfE will share more data through the ONS Secure Research Service using the legal gateway provided by the Digital Economy Act. This will mean research project approval will be managed through the Research Accreditation Service (rather than DfE) which will help to streamline access for accredited researchers. Where data cannot be shared through the ONS Secure Research Service under the Digital Economy Act, project approval will be governed by the DfE Data Sharing Service under existing DfE legislation.

Neil McIvor, Chief Data Officer,  Department for Education said: “The Department for Education puts data and evidence at the centre of policy making and delivery and recognises the crucial role that data plays in improving outcomes for children, young people, families and adults. We seek to enable a step change in the use of data and research to make a direct impact through innovation in its use to support good public policy.”

The engagement element of the programme is aimed at maximising the value of linked education data, making research more policy relevant and helping it to have greater impact. To do this, the DfE will share information and engage with research bodies and academia around data opportunities and policy needs. This will aim to clarify research priorities and interests and help to avoid duplication of activity. The programme also expects to include a strand of public engagement to build and maintain the public’s trust in those using the data. The DfE want to enable a public voice to be reflected in the research process.

Ian Knowles, Director of Analysis, Department for Education said: “The Department for Education aims to connect those with an interest in using linked education data to clear research priorities and drive up policy relevance of analysis carried out. We want to improve data access and increase dialogue between government policy and analytical teams and accredited researchers.”

This grant to the DfE forms part of a wider group of successful ADR UK grant recipients as part of the research-ready data and access funding opportunity. This call intended to encourage innovative and creative linkages and access to linked data to drive research to new places. Previous announcements related to this grant include:

More information on the remaining funded projects will become available soon.

Department for Education: Data Access and Engagement Programme

Project timeline: January 2023 – December 2025

Total funding:  £1,080,000 (FEC)

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