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The University of Southampton

Over seven million pounds for government data project

Published: 10 October 2013
Professor Peter Smith

A consortium led by the University of Southampton has been awarded £7.6 million to help launch and run a project to give access to government data for academic research.

The Administrative Data Research Centre for England (ADRC) will enable information routinely collected by government departments and other agencies, such as tax, education and health data, to be shared with researchers. The centre, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will be for approved academic projects and use anonymised data, accessed in a secure environment.

Project leader Professor Peter Smith, from the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, says: “Our vision is to see these data transformed into knowledge and evidence which can be used to inform public and economic policy – helping to tackle some of the major issues facing society, in an innovative and efficient way.

“We will manage and maximise the use of new data linkages across Government departments and sectors to give safe, secure and strictly managed access to anonymised data for research purposes.”

Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton Professor Don Nutbeam comments: “As a founding partner of the Open Data Institute 1 , the University is already at the forefront of innovation to help the public sector make more effective use of the information it holds. This project will extend and specialise our expertise in this field and provide a crucial facility for accredited academics conducting public policy related research.”

The Administrative Data Research Centre for England will be led by the University of Southampton and run in collaboration with University College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of London’s Institute of Education. It will be one of four such centres for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which with the newly formed Administrative Data Service (ADS) acting as a ‘gatekeepers’ to the research data, will form the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN).

The four ADRCs and the ADS will benefit from a grants package totalling approximately £34 million from the ESRC. This represents the first phase of £64 million of ESRC funding of investment in Big Data, to support the development of a network of innovative centres to strengthen the UKs competitive advantage in this field.

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC, says: “We are delighted to have played a leading role in the development of the national ADRN that will strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in Big Data. The core aim of the ADRN is to facilitate linkage of routinely collected administrative data, thereby stimulating opportunities for innovative research and policy-making. There will be benefits for researchers, government, local communities and the public – indeed; there is the potential for a revolution in our ability to answer a host of questions that were previously intractable.”

The Southampton based ADRC will be hosted by the University’s Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, working with colleagues in Geography, Engineering and the Environment and the information and communications technology professional services department, iSolutions. Working with project partners, it will provide state-of-the-art secure facilities with access to high performance computer systems, database management systems and advanced data analysis and statistical tools. This will enable administrative data sets to be linked across different services and Government departments to make them accessible for research.

The project has initial funding for five years.


1 The Open Data Institute promotes innovation driven by the Government’s Open Data policy, helping the public sector use its own data more effectively and developing the capability of UK businesses to exploit the commercial value of open data.

For more details about the Government's Big Data project, click here .

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