£12 million investment to support policy relevant research in Northern Ireland

Category: ADR Northern Ireland

10 May 2022

Administrative Data Research Northern Ireland (ADR NI) has been awarded £11.7 million as part of the £90 million UK wide ADR UK investment by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

ADR NI is a partnership between the Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI, comprising Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University), and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), which is an accredited processor under the Digital Economy Act (DEA). Together they support the acquisition, linking and analysis of administrative data sets, developing cutting-edge research to improve knowledge, policymaking and public service delivery.

ADR NI aligns its work with Northern Ireland Government strategic priorities as well as addressing other vital issues identified by stakeholders within communities and service provision. As a result, ADR NI has produced significant research grounded in robust public engagement to inform community, policy and service priorities in areas including mental health, early years, education, environmental health, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The ADR NI team has led the way on opening up datasets on new topics ranging from employment and earnings to farming and air pollution to enable research for policymaking for public benefit.

ADR NI Co Director and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Centre for Public Health, Professor Dermot O’Reilly, said: “We are delighted to build on our work for the next four years. To date, our programme of work has produced significant outputs which have helped to shape key areas of policy and service provision in Northern Ireland. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to identify and amplify crucial areas of research to support the people of Northern Ireland, such as housing and homelessness, mental health, air pollution, and food security.”

ADR NI Co Director, Registrar General and Chief Executive for NISRA, Siobhan Carey, said: “The continued investment in ADR NI as part of the ADR UK partnership is both a measure of the importance of the work which is being carried out in Northern Ireland and across the UK, and also of our success to date. The challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of timely and secure access for researchers to de-identified data and NISRA has risen to this challenge not only by developing improved infrastructure but also by providing research evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on particular at-risk groups.  

The insights that can be gained from this type of collaborative data curation and analyses are very exciting and I believe that the next investment period will see even more ground breaking work as we continue to build on our current capabilities, enabling even wider access to new and innovative linked data sources, as well as continuing to deliver research that informs policy development and is of benefit to all the people of Northern Ireland.”

The continued investment in Northern Ireland will ensure progress made to date is continued so that the value of administrative data to provide insight on the key issues facing Northern Ireland is fully realised. Since the partnership was established in 2014, ADR NI has made great strides in the use of data for public benefit, working closely with data custodians and policymakers, as well as the public, to identify key areas for research. Responding quickly to the public health emergency in March 2020, ADR NI contributed to the UK-wide effort to understand and fight Covid-19, playing an essential role in understanding the effectiveness and uptake of vaccines, and filling information gaps on Covid-19 related mortality and particular at-risk groups.

The funding will ensure that world leading research capability and the ongoing development of data infrastructure continue to make a positive impact on lives in Northern Ireland.

Dr Emma Gordon, Director ADR UK, said: ADR NI has a varied programme of work and their contribution to the field of administrative data research is valued in Northern Ireland and across the UK, providing policy-relevant research on topics like mental health and the outcomes of looked-after children. Their work on the effect of air pollution on health has been particularly noteworthy in producing impact and has seen ADR NI Research Fellow Dr Neil Rowland named as the Clean Air Champion for Northern Ireland. 

I’ve been pleased to see ADR NI taking great strides forward in embedding public engagement throughout the research cycle of all their programmes. Engaging meaningfully with the public is fundamental to delivering administrative data research that maintains public trust and is in the public interest. Likewise, this ongoing investment will also go toward developing the data infrastructure in Northern Ireland that will keep linked administrative data safe, secure and accessible to accredited researchers for research in the public interest.”

ADR Northern Ireland, alongside ADR Wales, ADR Scotland, ADR England and ONS make up the UK wide ADR UK investment, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (part of UK Research and Innovation).

Read more about ADR UK and how data can be accessed securely.

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