How do we work with the public?

We are dedicated to ensuring that our work is carried out in an ethical and responsible way that reflects public views, and that research is built upon a clear understanding of the interests and concerns of those it hopes to benefit. Additionally, public engagement is an important way of maintaining transparency in all that we do. As a result, it is crucial to ADR UK that our engagement with the public is a meaningful and mutually beneficial dialogue.

Public attitudes towards administrative data research

A clear understanding of the public’s interests and concerns in relation to how administrative data is used for research is important for maximising the impact of the research we enable. As highlighted in our review of existing literature (2020), previous studies exploring public views have shown that the public is broadly supportive of the use of administrative data for research as long as three core conditions are met, including:

  1. Public interest – any research using administrative data must demonstrate that it is in the public interest and has potential to lead to tangible benefits for society;
  2. Privacy and security – data being linked and used for research must be de-identified, and protections must be in place to prevent it from being re-identified or misused;
  3. Trust and transparency – trust in those holding and using data is paramount; and transparency around how data is held and used is essential.

These conditions are also reflected in the findings of the 2014 ‘Dialogue on Data’, a public consultation conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) with the principal aim of examining public understanding of administrative data and attitudes towards linking government records for research. Specifically, the purpose of the ‘Dialogue on Data’ was to inform the work of the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) – the predecessor to ADR UK. It subsequently went on to advise much of ADR UK’s foundational structure and approach.

ADR UK’s structure and approach ensures that each of the three conditions outlined above are at the core of everything we do. You can find out more about how we maintain them on the Ethics & Responsibility page.

Public engagement

ADR UK’s public engagement focuses on exploring the interests and concerns of those whose lives may be impacted by specific areas of research, to build upon the findings of the broader public attitudes work previously done. This brings to life the research that has, as of yet, mostly been shown to the public in an abstract sense and seeks their engagement in the areas of research that affect them.

This involves engaging with the sub-sectors of society that each of our projects hopes to benefit, or with a cross-section of society on a particular aspect of the use of administrative data. This may be either directly or via relevant community representatives – for example, charities, NGOs and community groups. This enables a greater focus on the issues important to the people whose lives may be directly affected by research conducted using their data, in a more specific context.

We will also continue to monitor and respond to any changes to public attitudes that may be identified by other, broader attitudinal work going forward, and adapt our approach in light of these where necessary.

You can find out about our main streams of public engagement, and some of the activities underway across the ADR UK partnership, below.

Public panels

Public panels are a growing element of ADR UK’s public engagement work, providing a platform for members of the public and third sector organisations to offer valuable feedback about our work. ADR Scotland and ADR Wales both maintain public panels to advise, scrutinise and steer their work in line with public interests. 

ADR Wales’ Consumer Panel for Data Linkage Research was established in 2011 and acts as a public voice in the partnership's work, inputting on governance systems, public engagement plans and research practices. The Panel allows ADR Wales to explore the public’s perspective on data linkage research and provides opportunities for lay representatives to join research study teams. The Panel currently has 16 members, with ongoing recruitment.

ADR Scotland’s Public Panel, set up in 2019 and maintained by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), ensures that members of the public are consulted on and involved in the administrative data research taking place. Made up of members of the public from across Scotland, the panel allows ADR Scotland to test assumptions about public perceptions regarding administrative data research and involve the public in determining what ‘public good’ means in this context.

Additional public and expert user panels are currently in scope for consultation and advice on specific areas of ADR UK’s research. Keep an eye out for more information coming soon.

Working with the third sector

Engaging with Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs), NGOs and other relevant third sector organisations as both consumers and drivers of administrative data research allows ADR UK to understand the research needs of specific communities and sub-sectors of society. It also empowers these groups by offering the opportunity to influence the direction and outcome of research.

The Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) holds a Data Workshop Series around themes of interest to both researchers and local organisations with a focus on: raising awareness among VCSE groups about the power and potential of data in their own work; how complex questions can be answered using data; raising public acceptability and demand for the sharing of data for research purposes; and establishing and embedding positive working relationships with the VCSE sector. You can find out about the outcome of previous workshops on the Impact page.

By bringing key stakeholders onto steering committees for each of its projects, ADRC NI also maximises engagement with people and organisations with differing expertise and knowledge of the issues researchers are exploring; and gains buy-in and ownership from people and organisations who can turn research findings into policy and societal change.

ADR Scotland conducts project-specific dialogue involving engagement with third sector organisations, community groups and other representative groups able to speak on behalf of the publics and communities relevant to each of ADR Scotland’s projects.

Meanwhile, ADR Wales holds stakeholder workshops with devolved and local government and third sector organisations, to get feedback on work already done and gain input on future work. The workshops provide an opportunity to tap into others’ expertise and receive valuable insight on projects using administrative data.

The Strategic Hub is currently working with a number of project teams to form panels of third sector representatives to facilitate engagement with relevant communities for these projects. If you’re from a third sector organisation interested in working with ADR UK to increase a community’s representation in our work, please get in touch.


ADR UK participates in a number of external public events throughout the year to raise awareness about our work and engage with interested communities around the UK. These events offer opportunities to promote the work being done by researchers, gauge the public’s opinion on the research and ignite collaboration opportunities. In addition, we run a number of our own public talks and seminars to allow individuals and communities to learn more about what we do, and why.

You can find out about upcoming events on the Events page.

The public’s contribution to the work of ADR UK is hugely important for a number of reasons:

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Public engagement allows ADR UK to foster a constructive, mutually beneficial conversation with the public. We believe that one of the best ways to understand the public’s concerns and issues is to simply ask and listen.

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We are dedicated to empowering the public to have a say in what their data is used for, to help drive research that fits firmly within the public interest.

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In order to get the most from our engagement with the public, raising awareness for the work that we do is paramount. People have a right to know what public sector data is being used for, and this represents a key part of our engagement work.

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The best engagement involves all voices. That’s why ADR UK is committed to diversity, to making sure that individuals from all walks of life have a say in influencing our work.

ADR UK has plans for more public engagement activities in the pipeline. Check our events page for upcoming opportunities to hear from and speak to us at public talks and seminars; to discuss our work in focus groups and public panels; and to explore other ways of getting involved.

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