ADRC-S Legacy Projects from phase 1 (2013-18)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences


Administrative data (that is information collected primarily for administrative purposes) has long contributed to central government statistics. During the last 15-20 years, technological advances in data science have allowed very large databases to be held by central and local government and by specialist agencies across the UK. This resource, coupled with the enormous computational power now available, and a robust data protection framework, opens up the possibility of developing a core resource for social science research. Linking such administrative data sets (in an anonymous form, and analysed in a secure environment) provides new insights into a diverse set of issues, e.g., the impact of homelessness on health, the type of care given to children looked after by the state, the impact of poverty on child development. The ambition of administrative data research is to help government and others make better-informed decisions based on a robust understanding of the issues.

The set of projects to be supported were initiated in the first phase of funding (ADRN) that established a UK-wide network of data centres. These projects were not able to be completed within the time-frame, in part because of the pioneering nature of the work and the (understandable) length of time taken to agree data sharing agreements with data controllers. For example, some of the projects that will be supported utilise Census data, where the principles of data sharing (in Scotland) have only just been agreed. Other projects have been in negotiation with Whitehall over many years (e.g. DWP) and data will now be delivered in the wake of the DEA.

ESRC recognised the value of this area of research, but also the need to work more closely in collaboration with government partners, with the ambition of creating research-ready data holdings and a unified process of governance and permissions. Hence the award of the second phase of funding, and the realisation that the work done in the first phase (e.g. negotiating access to data, obtaining research-specific permissions) should if at all possible be continued to supported.

Planned Impact

There will be three core beneficiaries:

a) Data Controllers
Some of the data controllers who have agreed to share data for the purposes of linkage, are doing so for the first time (e.g. Census and DWP). The benefit to them comes through the (joint) developments of systems and procedures that allow them to share data safely. The relationships of trust and confidence built will also encourage them to take part in the second phase of funding where we are looking to move the data request to a more routine regular single ingest of data - which will save the departments time and resource.

Engagement with the projects will encourage improvements in data management, metadata etc. as the data controllers will work with data architects and data scientists which might lead to new insights into their own data structure. The linking of data may also allow the data controllers to access new analyses that they could not have done themselves.

b) Policy impact
The majority of the projects approved under the ADRN regime were required to address particular policy imperatives (and this would have been re-emphasised during the permissions processes to access data where public benefit is paramount). The researchers involved have since committed to:

- work with the Centre team to produce a refreshed description of their project, describing how it aligns to the Scottish National Outcomes, and to provide regular updates on the status of work and details of impact and engagement activities undertaken;
- create 'key findings/data insights' report(s) once preliminary analysis of your data is complete, and to work with the Centre team on planning impact; and
- participate in the wider SIP teams created in the second phase of funding, attending discussions and meetings (including with policy-makers).

c) The public
The Centre will continue with its Public Engagement and Communication work (in collaboration with ADR UK and our Scottish Government Colleagues) in order to ensure that the public is aware of - and accepting of - the research undertaken and the utilisation of administrative data. We will also, with our partners, champion the use of evidence-based research in helping inform good decision making.
Description Graham Baker et al's research linked data to better understand active commuting in Scotland. They found walking and cycling had a 13-15% modal share of all commuting journeys in Scotland. The proportion of people walking to work was greater in 2011 than in 2001. Active commuting can play an important role in achieving recommended levels of physical activity - 50% of active commuters met 30 min/day of activity through their commute in 2011. The annual health economic benefit of active commuting in Scotland was over EUR 0.75 billion. These findings form a vital part of advocacy for more walking and cycling promotion, in engaging the wider public, and in justifying further investment in more walkable and cycle friendly environments in Scotland given the multiple co-benefits of moving away from car use to more active modes of travel.

Frank Popham et al's research on selective schools found that people who attended an academic focussed secondary school had better health but there was little effect of attending an academic focussed school itself on adult health. This was true of health measures that were self-reported or derived from government records, whether
measured in mid-life or later life. Debates continue about the merits of selective schooling in the UK and elsewhere to improve education levels. Our results suggest that population health may not be improved by such a policy and so should not be used as a reason to argue for the return to grammar schools. More generally, studies such as these provide an evidence-base for policy and planning and show the long term effects of policy on people's outcomes and lives

Ben Matthews et al's research analysed geographical patterns in the destination address of drugs packages intercepted on their way into Scotland from overseas between 2011 and 2016. This was novel because it's hard to get small-scale geographic information about where drugs packages are being delivered. The majority of intercepted drug packages were destined for urban centres, but there was a higher than expected delivery rate to some of Scotland's remote and rural locations. Increased rates of drug delivery within Scottish neighbourhoods was independently associated with higher levels of crime and deprivation, with Internet connectivity and with access to services, but not with higher rates of drug-related hospitalization. Analysis of spatial clustering showed that drug delivery to the most remote and rural locations was still associated with good access to services because the packages were typically delivered to addresses in larger settlements within remote locations.

The Scottish Health and Ethnicity Linkage study, by Genevieve Cezard, examined how different ethnic groups reported health contrasted with actual mortality rates for the same groups by anonymously linking Scottish Census 2001 data for 4.6 million people to mortality records. The study found that it is not just younger individuals who expect to live longer, but ethnic minorities who live up to the age of 65 also expect to have a longer life than older people who identity as White Scottish individuals. However, despite having a longer life expectancy, not all ethnic minorities live longer in good health, with Indian and Pakistani populations having amongst the longest life expectancies in Scotland but also the highest number of years with poor health. For example, Pakistani women are expected to live 20.4 years in poor health on average compared to 8.7 years for White Scottish women. High risk for specific diseases (such as diabetes) could be part of the explanation for this high number of years in poor health.

Peter Murchie et al's study used data from Northeast Scotland for 11,803 cancer patients (diagnosed 2007-13) and linked these to the census to explore relationships between hospital travel-time, timely-treatment and one-year mortality, adjusting for both area and individual-level socioeconomic status. The study found that distance to services, rather than personal characteristics, influences poorer rural cancer survival. Those living most remote from a cancer centre are more likely to receive their treatment within Scottish Government targets but, despite this, have a greater risk of mortality than those living closer by. These results can help us better understand geographical cancer inequality and consider potential interventions.
Exploitation Route Many of the findings are of direct relevance to key policy areas including active commuting, selective schooling and drugs misuse. The findings are of interest to Government, local authorities, Public Health Scotland, NHS and health bodies and the third sector.
Sectors Education


Leisure Activities

including Sports

Recreation and Tourism

Description The legacy projects have enabled a wider range of users to access administrative data for research. The impact is re-use of data, building capacity of data researchers and creation of exemplar projects to show what analysis and evidence administrative data can provide.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Description Ethnic minorities expect to live longer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A press release to showcase findings of the PhD thesis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020