£17m funding for collaborative data research in Wales

An initiative that has transformed how de-identified administrative data can be securely used to provide insight into social and economic issues in Wales is set to continue thanks to an investment of almost £17 million.

Administrative Data Research Wales (ADR Wales) has been awarded £16,985,944 until 2026 as part of the £90 million UK wide Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) investment  by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Established in 2018 as part of ADR UK, ADR Wales unites research expertise from Swansea University Medical School and the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) at Cardiff University with analysts from Welsh Government. The ADR Wales team includes leading academics with expertise in the priority issues facing the nation. Together, ADR Wales works to ensure that timely administrative data-driven insights and evidence are used to help make informed policy decisions for the people of Wales.

ADR Wales aligns its work with the key areas identified in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government 2021-2026 such as education, mental health and housing. It utilises the academic independence and expertise of a team of specialist researchers, analysts, and data scientists.

The ADR Wales team has led the way on cutting-edge data analysis techniques and research excellence, working alongside the world-renowned SAIL Databank to deliver robust, secure and informative research.  As a result, ADR Wales has to date produced significant researcher-led analysis to inform Welsh Government priority areas in housing, well-being, early years, education and skills, mental health and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic.

ADR Wales played a pivotal role in informing understanding and subsequent decision making at policy level during the pandemic in both Wales and across the UK, with its researchers working to understand the spread of the pandemic in Wales and its impact on people and services. ADR Wales will continue to assist decision making in Wales by providing timely insights on issues affecting the people of Wales, while addressing the secondary impact of the pandemic on people and services.

Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said“I am pleased that the innovative work carried out by the ADR Wales partnership will continue to provide data-driven insights on the challenges we face as a nation. This continued partnership will enable us to access a richer evidence base, helping us shape and support future policy decisions as we set out to deliver our Programme for Government and our commitments to build a stronger, fairer, greener Wales.”

Speaking of the further investment, ADR Wales Co Director and Chief Statistician for Wales, Stephanie Howarth said“The continued investment into ADR Wales and the ADR UK partnership signifies the importance of this truly groundbreaking work here in Wales and throughout the UK. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated like never before the swift analysis that can be achieved when experts have access to de-identified, timely data. ADR Wales’ efforts throughout the pandemic helped to inform many decisions during the fast paced, rapidly changing situation.

“Data, when de-identified and linked securely and safely, can provide the information that is needed to ensure that policy making in Wales and the UK is informed, ultimately helping to make better decisions for the people who live here.”

ADR Wales Co Director and Professor of Informatics at Swansea University, Professor David Ford said“ADR Wales has invested significantly in its infrastructure and expertise to ensure that de-identified data can be safely and securely used to better understand the world in which we live.

“To date, our programme of work has produced significant outputs which have helped to shape key areas of public policy in Wales. We look forward to the next four years as we continue to pioneer safe data practices and demonstrate the role that de-identified data can play, when used safely, securely and correctly, in helping to inform decision making both in Wales and throughout the UK.”

The continued investment in Wales will ensure that the strides to better understand administrative data and how it can help to answer questions on key issues facing Wales can continue. The funding will ensure that world leading secure data infrastructure, research capability and training for future generations of researchers and data analysists continue to be among the best in the world.

Dr Emma Gordon, ADR UK Director said “We are delighted to award ADR Wales funding to continue their important administrative data research and data linkage programmes. Their work on ADR UK themes such as housing and communities, children and young people, health and well-being and particularly Covid-19 have constructively informed policy decisions and improved the lives of many people in Wales.

“This funding extension is testament to the fantastic impact that ADR Wales delivered in terms of delivering cutting-edge research during ADR UK’s pilot phase. The SAIL Databank has also been an incredibly valuable resource that has allowed ADR Wales – and the wider research community – to carry out policy-relevant research.”

“As the ADR UK partnership enters a new phase of research thanks to renewed funding, we are excited to produce new, ground-breaking administrative data research. We are also committed to making administrative and linked data safe, secure, and more accessible than ever to a broad range of trained researchers, to impact policy in a way that serves the public.”

ADR Wales alongside ADR Northern Ireland, ADR Scotland, ADR England and ONS make up the UK wide ADR UK investment, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (part of UK Research and Innovation).

Read more about ADR UK and how data can be accessed securely.

This news originally appeared on the Welsh Government website.