Starting out in administrative data research

Starting out as a researcher using administrative data requires a range of skills, training and approvals; find out more about the support available.

Why administrative data research?

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.

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.

What training is available?

  • ‘An introduction to using linked administrative data for social and health research’ is run on a regular basis by team members from our centre and other partners.
  • ‘Safe Researcher Training’ (ONS-SRT), delivered regularly by our centre. This training provides the skills and information required to work with sensitive data, and is a requirement for any researchers accessing data in the safe haven network. 
  • For those new to quantitative research, most universities run in-depth introductions for staff and students to statistical packages like SPSS, R and Stata.
  • Other teams run courses which may be useful, such as the Scottish Longitudinal Studies team, who run courses on specific elements such as survival analysis, and an introduction to the Scottish Longitudinal Study resource.

How to access data, and who can help?

Accessing data can be complex, and the specific processes can depend on the organisations which hold the data. Read our accessing data page for more information.

As well as our centre team, there are some key organisations and initiatives in the administrative data research field to be aware of: