Why we've created ADR UK Flagship Datasets and the Learning Hub

When ADR UK first went down the ‘training and capacity building’ path, it wasn’t completely clear where it would lead. Who needed training? What did they need to know? What was missing in existing training from other organisations?  These questions were put to a group of experts who helped us to develop a strategy and a delivery plan.   

First and foremost, they advised that there were significant gaps to be filled if we want to drive up the use of administrative data for research:  

  • more information was needed on how to discover and access linked and linkable administrative datasets 
  • many people didn’t know how or where to get started using administrative data 
  • available and relevant skills training, tools, and resources required clearer signposting. 

The vision for our new Learning Hub has been to make ADR UK the ‘front door’ for anyone wanting to know about or use administrative data. We’ve focused on filling these gaps to enable potential users of administrative data to build knowledge and confidence – and gain clarity on what they need and how to get there. 

The Learning Hub was a real collaborative effort and could not have been realised without the expert input of our contributors. Some of the new pages contain helpful basics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), like how to write and share good statistical code or identify bias when using linked data.  The UK Statistics Authority has provided slides and commentary on the Digital Economy Act 2017, which is one of the most important pieces of legislation for users of administrative data. There’s a section on public engagement: how it’s relevant to all research, and how to embed it in research planning and execution. And you can also find tips for preparing successful applications for funding to use administrative data.  

Alongside the Learning Hub, another new section listing all ADR UK flagship datasets is geared towards researchers who are considering using administrative data for the first time. Flagship datasets are of significant research value, helping to answer big societal questions about public policies and services. Each has been made available for research relatively recently, so new studies that use them have the potential to reveal truly groundbreaking insights. The pages for each flagship dataset detail what the dataset is composed of, core documentation, how to access it, as well as other useful information and resources.  

Hear from the experts  

Jo Ferrie, Professor of Sociology at the University of Glasgow, and Vanessa Higgins, Director of User Support and Training at the UK Data Service, were both in our original group of advisors. They agreed that these resources will be a springboard for researchers starting out in the world of administrative data. 

“Administrative data is of critical value to UK researchers and the UK will benefit from the researchers who will be drawn to use this data”, said Jo. “New researchers, particularly, will benefit from the fabulous gateway to getting started with ADR UK’s Learning Hub.”  

“These flagship datasets are also a game changer, allowing researchers to work directly with data linked across society’s most urgent challenges. Presenting them in this way will speed up access to findings that are needed, that can change our world, and that have a significant and substantial impact on people’s lives.” 

"It is fantastic to see the launch of the ADR UK Learning Hub and Flagship Datasets pages,” Vanessa added. “This is a really important new development which will help to ensure that this valuable data is used to its full potential."  

The work doesn’t stop here  

What we have launched is some much-needed scaffolding on which we can build a more comprehensive gateway for users of administrative data. In putting the pages together it’s clear that we are on an upwards trajectory of learning, experience building, and resource development. We’re looking to add new sections to the Learning Hub in the near future and our list of flagship datasets will also grow as more linked data becomes available. 

What’s important is that you, the user, tell us what we need to add. There’s a survey on the Learning Hub landing page and we’re keen to get your feedback and ideas. Please help us improve these resources so that they’re the best they can be! 

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