Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection: Enhancing the prosperity and wellbeing of farm households
27 June 2023
ADR UK is working in partnership with a group of academic and government bodies to link de-identified data from across the UK to create the first UK-wide dataset focused on agriculture.
Farming in the UK underpins the nation’s food security, generates economic benefits and shapes a rich and varied landscape. Likewise, farm households, residing in the same location often over many generations, are important local actors, strengthening the social fabric of rural areas.
Despite these contributions to local and national life, farming as a sector experiences uncertain and volatile profits with consequences for household income and financial stability. In recognition of these and other features of farming life, agriculture has received subsidies aimed at supporting and stabilising farm incomes, encouraging environmental actions and diversifying farm business activities.
For almost 40 years, policy was largely delivered through the EU Common Agricultural Policy, but following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, authority has returned to the UK. As agriculture is a devolved matter, this means new and increased responsibilities for all four UK nations. New policy directions are already established with aims linked to improving business prosperity, enhancing environmental sustainability and strengthening business and personal resilience.
The AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection) project aims to integrate the human dimension with data on farming activities. This will provide insights into the demographic, health, education and economic characteristics of farm households associated with different types and sizes of farm businesses. To understand how farming fits in with the wider rural community, we’re also studying non-farming rural households. These insights will help decision makers to improve policies and enhance the wellbeing of farmers, their households, and wider rural communities.
AD|ARC is now in its second phase, after securing further investment through the ADR UK research-ready data and access call, until 2025. Funding will be used to update and expand the data resources in England, Scotland, and Wales. The enhanced datasets will be used to carry out more ambitious research across the UK on changing farm demographics, farm household economic activities, and the links between household circumstances and land use patterns.
AD|ARC brings together data linkage researchers and experts in agricultural affairs with partner organisations including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. The programme brings together the teams within the individual nations of the ADR UK investment, led by Dr Paul Caskie of the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland and principally supported by a team at ADR Wales.
There are separate but coordinated work streams for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, aiming to be complementary so that analysis at a UK level is possible. The direction of the project has been driven by close engagement with farming stakeholders and scientific researchers across the UK.
AD|ARC links de-identified electronic records that are already collected by departments across the governments of the UK. The datasets included in AD|ARC are the:
- EU Farm Structure Survey
- rural payments
- 2011 censuses of population
- Inter-Departmental Business Register.
Additional routine health and education records held by the various UK government administrations are linked where available.
A control group of rural households was created by matching each farming household with up to three households from the 2011 Census that lived in areas with similar levels of rurality as farmers but did not contain someone who reported they were a farmer.
The content of the AD|ARC datasets and the availability of additional linked education and health datasets varies by country. The linked datasets are accessible separately within the ONS Secure Research Service for England, and the SAIL Databank for Wales and will be made available via NISRA in Northern Ireland and Scotland’s National Safe Haven. Information about access points for each trusted research environment is available on the ADR UK website. Methods for cross-UK analysis are in development.
Each nation’s dataset will link together their relevant data from the:
- 2010 EU Farm Structure Survey
- 2011 censuses of the population
- 2010-2020 Inter-Departmental Business Register
- 2010 rural payments subsidy data.
Each nation’s dataset will also link to additional health and education datasets as they become available.
The current funding will be used to link the existing AD|ARC datasets to information about farm structures and the census of population. These datasets will be available to researchers by 2025.
Coverage is currently England and Wales, with AD|ARC datasets for Northern Ireland and Scotland in preparation and expected to be available by the end of 2023.
What is the potential of this linked data?
Research using this data has the potential to describe the composition and characteristics of farm households and how these change over time. Researchers will be able to analyse the interactions between farm household characteristics, land use patterns and engagement with environmental programmes. Using the economic characteristics of farm households alongside other characteristics it will be possible to examine the prosperity and resilience associated with different types and sizes of farm businesses.
The datasets will also help address other issues of interest to policymakers and other stakeholders across the UK including farm household health and wellbeing and the impact of educational attainment on life opportunities.
Outputs will inform future policy decision making, potentially leading to better responses to challenges such as improving prosperity, responding to environmental pressures, generating better health outcomes and improving farm household income.
Key questions these newly linked datasets could help to address include:
- What are the characteristics of farm households and how do these affect things such as engagement with environmental programmes, land use patterns and economic resilience?
- What effect does being part of a farm household have on health and wellbeing outcomes, and does this vary by farm characteristics?
- Does the educational attainment of farm households affect their economic characteristics or land use patterns?
Current grant details
Principal investigator: Dr Paul Caskie, Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland
Funding amount: £368,204 plus £99,607 funded by the Welsh Government
Duration: March 2023 – March 2025
This grant is funded via the ADR UK research-ready data and access fund, a dedicated fund for commissioning research using newly linked administrative data. The funding decision was based on advice from an independent expert panel, and in consultation with the Office for National Statistics. This project is part of the ADR England portfolio. Details of the funding grant awarded for this project can also be found on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Gateway to Research platform. Read the funding announcement on our website.
AD|ARC is being led by ADR Wales with a core administrative team supported by the principal investigator and co-investigator. Project governance is the responsibility of the AD|ARC Steering Group. The AD|ARC project benefits from the following governance structures:
- AD|ARC Steering Committee– comprising the project management team, data controllers and policy leads from government– with responsibility for the strategic direction and achievement of project objectives
- AD|ARC Scientific Advisory Board– comprising leading researchers in a range of disciplines from around the UK– with responsibility for refining the research objectives and when appropriate participating in the analysis. View the AD|ARC Scientific Advisory Board Terms of Reference (May 2021).
- AD|ARC Stakeholder Reference Groups– comprising representatives from farming communities across the UK, and third sector organisations engaging with farmers and farm families– with responsibility for informing research proposals and commenting on emerging findings. Find out more about the AD|ARC Stakeholder Reference Groups.
Previous grant details
Principal Investigator: Dr Paul Caskie, Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland
Funding amount: £597,366
Duration: June 2020 – March 2023
In phase one the project team, with the assistance of the wider partnership, created AD|ARC national databases based on the 2011 Census across the UK and initiated a strategic research programme and governance framework.
How is the AD|ARC database being kept safe?
All data is de-identified before being made available to accredited researchers to access for research that is in the public interest. This means that all personal identifiers, such as names, ages, addresses, etc, are removed before being made available to researchers. The data is held under rigorous safeguards to ensure only accredited researchers with approved access to AD|ARC can conduct research across the datasets (e.g. census, education) without ever being able to identify a person, household, or farm. All outputs are subject to third party review as a further assurance against any form of disclosure.
Keeping the de-identified data we use for research safe and secure is our top priority. Key to this is the network of trusted research environments that store AD|ARC data, which operate based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Five Safes framework.
The trusted research environments which store AD|ARC in Great Britain are:
- England– the ONS Secure Research Service
- Wales– the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank
- Scotland- the National Safe Havens.
In Northern Ireland, a sister resource, Census Agricultural Research Study, is stored in:
The trusted research environments of the UK are secure systems that do not allow researchers to copy or remove data from the secure location or secure connection. This means that researchers do not have any data on their own computers. All the research results from AD|ARC (such as tables or graphs) are also stored in the trusted research environment. Before researchers can share any results (for example, in a report), they are checked by an independent team at the relevant trusted research environment to protect them against any potential re-identification.
All researchers that can access AD|ARC have been accredited and trained on how to handle data safely and ethically. Researchers who wish to analyse the AD|ARC data must prove to a governance panel that their research has the potential to benefit the public.
Can researchers find my, or my child’s records within the AD|ARC database?
No – The AD|ARC database is “de-identified” which means it doesn’t contain any information that identifies a person. For example, it doesn’t include names, addresses, dates of birth, or NHS numbers.
What if I do not want my data (or my child’s data) to be included in AD|ARC?
The AD|ARC team strongly believe in the benefits of research using de-identified data and has robust policies and security in place to prevent the misuse of individuals’ de-identified data. Nevertheless, we understand that some individuals may not want information about them used for research. If someone is concerned about having their de-identified records included in AD|ARC, they are welcome to contact us for any further information they require. Please see the section- ‘How do I contact the AD|ARC team?’
Because the AD|ARC datasets held in the trusted research environments only contain de-identified data, the AD|ARC team are unable to directly identify you so cannot remove your records from the collection. However, if you would like to find out more about the secondary uses of de-identified data and the policies of the UK trusted research environments where AD|ARC is stored, please select one of the following dropdowns. The dropdowns include information about whether and how you can opt out of anonymised data that relates to you being used for secondary purposes.
Data shared for the AD|ARC database is done so via a range of legal gateways which allow accredited researchers to access data for research and statistical purposes. One of the most commonly used legal gateways is the Digital Economy Act 2017, Section 64 - ‘Disclosure of information for research purposes’. It states that de-identified data held by a public authority in connection with the authority’s functions may be disclosed for the purpose of research. This is, however, subject to meeting certain criteria, including the assurance that a person’s identity is not specified in any information disclosed for research.
AD|ARC data in Wales is stored in the SAIL Databank. Information on SAIL and contact information can be found by following the links below.
AD|ARC data in England is stored in the ONS Secure Research Service. Information on ONS Secure Research Service and contact information can be found by following the links below.
You have the right to tell NHS Digital if you do not want the information you provide to the NHS to be used beyond the purpose of providing healthcare.
This is known as a ‘patient objection.' Please visit NHS Digital’s website for further details.
Your choice will not affect the health care you receive.
If you would not like your health data (or your child’s data) to be included in AD|ARC you will need to tell NHS Digital before 01/02/2023. This is because once the health data has been de-identified the project team will not be able to identify you and won’t be able to remove your records from the AD|ARC dataset.
AD|ARC data in Scotland is stored in the National Safe Havens. Information on the National Safe Havens and contact information can be found by following the links below.
CARS data in Northern Ireland is stored in the National Safe Havens. Information on the NISRA safe research environment and contact information can be found by following the links below.
How do I contact the AD|ARC team?
If you have questions or concerns about AD|ARC, please contact the project team:
AD|ARC Project Team
Knowledge and Analytical Services
What if I have a complaint?
If you have a complaint about the use of de-identified data by AD|ARC you have the right to complain directly to the Information Commissioners Office, the independent regulatory authority set up to uphold information rights.