Starting out in administrative data research

Find out more about the administrative data research landscape, what skills are needed, and where to find support.

Why administrative data research?

Across the UK as a whole, administrative data is currently a largely untapped, but information-rich resource. This wealth of data, the majority of which was not originally created for research but as a by-product of government services, has the potential to create important knowledge, providing powerful insights into our society and in turn pointing to areas where change is needed.

ADR Scotland is a partnership between the Scottish Government and SCADR, who are part of ADR UK, whose mission is to transform the way researchers access the UK’s wealth of public sector data, enabling vital research that has the potential to lead to better informed policy decisions and more effective public serves. The ADR UK website has information and news about administrative data research across the UK, including recent case studies.

Administrative data research in Scotland

Administrative data offers an unrivalled source of information about life in Scotland and across the UK: quantitative data on a large scale across many years, covering areas from health to education, and from crime to transport. This data can provide valuable insights, but it is important to be aware that the infrastructure and access to data of this kind is still developing and growing: processes are improving over time, but can be complex. The long timescales involved do mean that administrative data can be a challenging source of data to access and analyse within a PhD timescale, for example.

A group of early career researchers in Scotland have set up a platform called eCRUSADers that provides a space for researchers to go if they are thinking about working with Scottish administrative data and want to learn from others.

Other key organisations in Scotland to be aware of include:

What skills are required?

Ideally researchers should have knowledge and previous experience of conducting quantitative data analysis, an understanding of basic (and ideally more advanced) statistics, and experience in using a statistical package such as SPSS, R or Stata.

If you are a first time researcher, we recommend a free online modular course offered by Centric, as a first step. 

As SCADR is part of ADR Scotland, we are delighted you can access the ADR UK Learning Hub, which gives you access to training for those of you just getting started with administrative data, and also provides plenty of resources for the researcher throughout various stages of their career using administrative data. 

What training is available?

Please visit our Training page to find out about courses available to build skills and courses that provide training that is essential to access data.  

SCADR offer two training courses:

Our Resources webpage also has links to some tools that are useful for administrative research.

How to access data, and who can help?

Accessing data can be complex, please visit our accessing data page for more information.

The ADR UK Catalogue makes it easier for researchers to discover the growing collection of administrative datasets available in the UK for public good research, including ADR Scotland's Flagship Dataset.