In its work in 2012, the Administrative Data Taskforce (ADT) considered the barriers being faced by academic and government researchers seeking to access administrative data for research purposes. Although some constraints identified were resourcing or cultural barriers within data owning departments, the ADT discussed the legal barriers that exist across the UK that prevent or inhibit the sharing of data from some key data owning departments.
The ADT included within its report a section on legislation, and proposed that a new generic legislative power was ultimately required if the full opportunities and benefits of using and sharing administrative data is to be realised. Last summer the Cabinet Office started to consider the possibility of new data sharing legislation. Their work has drawn heavily on the information collected for, and the recommendations published by the ADT in order to inform the development of the strand on research and statistics.
On 27 February 2014, a group of civil society organisations and experts led by the Cabinet Office and the INVOLVE charity met with government officials to begin to explore whether a collaborative and open policy process could be developed around the issue of data sharing within government. More information about INVOLVE is available from here.
In the context of this consultation, the ESRC has been asked to identify any further examples from the academic community for the following:
1. Unsuccessful attempts to access administrative data from government due to legislative barriers.
If so, a small paragraph explaining the research being proposed, using which data, what happened, and the implication on the research and what the benefits may have been if the legislation had not prevented the research being undertaken would be much appreciated.
2. Examples of data sharing that have been permitted and have led to impact and public benefit, ideally from the breadth of social sciences.
For these examples to be most effective, it would be better if they were recent, i.e. within the last two years. The anonymity of researchers and institutions will be protected by removing any information that may identify specific researchers, teams or institutions, ahead of sharing with the Cabinet Office, unless you indicate you are happy to be identified.
Large government departments have already been asked to provide examples of research using administrative data that has been stalled due to legislation. The ESRC need to provide equally strong and concrete examples of how the current legislative landscape prevents academics from accessing administrative data and constrains academic research of high quality and impact to take place.
Your help is very much appreciated in the matter and will strengthen the case for new and better legislation for access to administrative data for research.
As the activity of the Cabinet Office and INVOLVE is now progressing at speed, the ADLS would appreciate responses to this consultation by Friday the 9th of May.
Further enquiries and responses should be sent to ADLS@st-andrews.ac.uk.