A Strategic Advisory Team for Data Resources 2014-2016

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Institute for Employment Research


For the past nine years the ESRC has supported the post of Strategic Advisor for Data Resources via research awards to Professors Peter Elias and John Hobcraft. Their work as advisors to the ESRC in the areas of data development has supported a number of successful applications to the UK research infrastructure fund (the Large Facilities Capital Fund), providing resources for Understanding Society, the Life Study, CLOSER, and, most recently, the Administrative Data Research Network. Additionally, the advisors support the UK Data Forum -a body which coordinates the activities of data producers and research funding organisations relating to the development of data and related resources. They also work at the international level to support activities which promote or enhance access to data across national boundaries.

With the rapid development of the data landscape in both the public and private sectors, and with growing interest in the promotion of improved access to data which can inform research in the social sciences at the international level, the scope of this advisory work now needs to be broadened and deepened. This proposal describes the Strategic Advisors Team - a group of five senior social and data scientists who are collaborating to provide advice in related areas: administrative data about people and organisations; social media data; customer databases; longitudinal data and biosocial data. The advisors will work closely with the ESRC, government departments, other research funding agencies both within the UK and beyond, the Office for National Statistics and private sector companies to promote improvements in access to data, knowledge about the availability of data for specific research purposes and capacity building among the UK social science research community.

The advisors will be guided by the UK Strategy for Data Resources for Research in the Social Sciences (2013-2018), developed by the UK Data Forum and outlining the strategic direction for the development of social and economic research data over the next five years.

Planned Impact

Enhancing and broadening the range of data resources and the means to exploit them will contribute to a step change in the breadth and quality of social scientific research. The positive effect upon achieving research impact will, in turn, help shape government, business and third sector policies and practices by significantly improving the evidence base. Key developments will occur in areas in which academics have hitherto felt 'locked out' of access to the best data or have been unable to link them.

New knowledge exchange opportunities will arise: with the business sector through Business Datasafe; with government departments and the NHS through linkage of administrative data and e-health records; with the biosciences and health sciences through translation of findings; and with policy development and understanding of emerging social trends through analysis of social media data. The UK has the potential to achieve world leadership in each of these areas. The added value to existing data resources from facilitating visibility, linkage, access and usage will also enable stronger and more targeted analyses that translate into broader societal impact.

Key to our impact is the recognition of the importance of reciprocal engagement with government, business and the third sector, as well as other stakeholders. Such engagement cannot be turned on or off like a tap, and the team's track record and experience will build trust that enables a mutually beneficial approach to data sharing from business, government and individual citizens. This will be critical to the creation of new data resources, the maintenance of existing ones and the effective linkage of both in high impact applied social science research. We shall work to ensure that such partnerships with stakeholders provide research that is beneficial to all, achieves best practice and provides pointers to the best way to do things in the future. Through achieving such synergies we can help to build richer, better and more inclusive data resources, and thus help to ensure that data resources are harnessed to inform broad societal goals and thereby achieve impact.

The best and most innovative research requires the best and most innovative data resources. We believe that we can enable UK leadership in many areas that will have an impact internationally, helping to shape and improve the quality and depth of data resources leading to better research agendas and opportunities for collaborative, comparative and, above all, effective research.


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