Two new projects will develop research communities and drive transformative insights about children and young people

30 January 2024

This ambitious programme of work, granted as part of the ADR England Research Community Catalyst Awards, will advance the use of administrative data for public good research and drive up the use of ADR England flagship datasets. The award holders will provide strategic leadership, build research capacity and develop diverse, cross-sector research communities.

ADR England Research Community Catalyst for Children at Risk of Poor Outcomes

The data landscape for children who come into contact with early intervention services or children’s social care is patchy. This limits its potential to drive research, practice and policy that improves children’s lives. In recent years, there has been a lot of progress in making valuable national datasets available; however, researchers are still making insufficient use of them. Currently, knowledge is fragmented; there is no clear sense of research gaps or priorities, and where evidence exists, it often gathers dust on a shelf. Researchers in the field have varying levels of connectivity and support.

The ADR England Research Community Catalyst for Children at Risk of Poor Outcomes aims to address these issues by building a community of data users. This community will provide national strategic leadership for administrative data and research, focusing on children and young people supported by early intervention services or children’s social care. 

Associate Professor, Lucy Griffiths, Swansea University said:This is an exciting opportunity to support and strengthen a growing community of researchers equipped to use valuable ADR England flagship datasets. We also welcome the opportunity to develop a shared understanding of priorities for future research and investment, which will address the most pressing questions about children at risk of poor outcomes. A national data strategy for children is urgently needed, and our Catalyst will be very well placed to shape this.

Professor Karen Broadhurst, Lancaster University said: ADR England has made remarkable progress in creating new opportunities for researchers to access administrative data to address critical societal questions. However, more needs to be done to enable collaboration across disciplines and among researchers and analysts, to realise these opportunities. Over the next two years, we are confident that our Catalyst will ensure a better informed and connected community, that drives forward knowledge about children at risk of poor outcomes.

The project is co-funded by ADR UK with Foundations: The National What Works Centre for Children and Families. The project will be co-led by Dr Lucy Griffiths of Swansea University and Professor Karen Broadhurst, of Lancaster University. Co-investigators include Dr Jenny Woodman and Professor Katie Harron (University College London), Professor Lisa Holmes (University of Sussex) and Dr Dougal Hargreaves (Imperial College London).

Existing data allows us to map young people’s journeys through school, further and higher education, or other institutions (including care or prison) and onto their next steps. However, the quality and accessibility of this data is variable, and it is not widely used. And currently, there is no cross-sector strategy outlining the requirements for usable datasets or future data linkages.  

The ADR England Research Community Catalyst for Youth Transitions aims to map the data sources, identify potential avenues for better data linking, and create a community of data users to answer important research questions. Improving the research landscape in this way will help answer pressing questions about what works to support youth transitions and reduce inequalities. 

This project is co-funded by ADR UK with the Youth Futures Foundation and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO). Dr Angela Donkin, on behalf of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), will be the Principal Investigator. Co-Investigators include Dr Jake Anders (University College London), Professor Peter Urwin (University of Westminster), David Thomson (FFT Education Datalab) and Dr Alex Sutherland (Behavioural Insights Team).

Dr Omar Khan, Chief Executive Officer, TASO said:  "TASO is pleased to be co-funding this important project with ADR UK and Youth Futures Foundation. Improving the mapping and linking of data is vital to help reduce inequalities for young people as they progress through education – including transitions into higher education. This is particularly important for young people who come into contact with early intervention services or social care.

Dr Angela Donkin, Senior Consultant at UCL Institute of Health Equity said:We are delighted to be involved in a project designed to identify and fill the gaps in national data sets around youth transitions. We look forward to working with our partners to create a more comprehensive data picture of the current research base, identifying the key gaps in the evidence and mapping the key data sources which might be better used to address these gaps, to support decision makers in improving the lives of children.

Cross-cutting themes supported by invested co-funders

The two research community catalyst teams will map and appraise the existing knowledge, identifying research gaps and priorities. They will also publish relevant materials for each theme on the web, to actively engage with a diverse research community. Community building will be supported by a curriculum of events that facilitates knowledge sharing. Each project will also fund a Research Fellow to address the research priorities.  

The co-funders have an existing mission to enable evidence-informed policy and practice. They share a mutual interest in supporting the greater use of linked administrative data and recognise the opportunity to realise its potential by creating greater focus and momentum around a theme. 

The themes for this new pilot initiative were selected because they are cross-cutting, in terms of government departmental boundaries and existing relevant ADR England flagship datasets. They also have the potential to make a considerable contribution to social science, policy and practice. Through these awards, the community catalysts will create the opportunity for collaborations across government and research disciplines, and to consider more holistic perspectives on pressing societal issues.

A third funding opportunity co-funded by ADR UK with the Evaluation Task Force and the Economic and Social Research Council on the theme of evaluation was unsuccessful. The panel was unable to award a grant. 

If you are interested in joining one, or both, of these research communities, please complete an expression of interest form. Or to stay up to date, subscribe to the ADR UK Newsletter

Funding details

ADR England Research Community Catalyst for Children at Risk of Poor Outcomes

  • Principal Investigators: Dr Lucy Griffiths, Swansea University and Professor Karen Broadhurst, Lancaster University
  • Funding: £ 759,592.49 (full economic cost)
  • Dates: 31 January 2024 – 30 January 2026

ADR England Research Community Catalyst for Youth Transitions

  • Principle Investigator: Dr Angela Donkin, on behalf of NfER
  • Funding: £ 570,314.05 (full economic cost)
  • Dates: 29 January 2024 – 31 March 2026

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