In June 2014 the RSS Glasgow Local Group hosted a scientific meeting on the power of administrative data, in which Dr Stephen Pavis, programme director of the Farr Institute, NHS Scotland, delivered an extremely interesting and informative seminar titled: ‘Freeing the power of administrative data: can Scotland become a global leader?’.
Dr Pavis introduced the audience to the vast array of administrative data available within Scotland (eg health, social care, housing, education and criminal justice), highlighting the power of such data through its spatiotemporal coverage, in terms of routine collections and national coverage, and the opportunity to link the data across different sectors. Such linkage would aid economic growth, planning for public services and design of social policies.
Dr Pavis described and illustrated the challenges to linkage of such data which include obtaining public support, protecting individual privacy and complying with the law, and creating efficient processes to obtain permissions. There are several new ‘big data’ initiatives aimed at addressing these issues and specifically Dr Pavis described how the The Farr Institute and the Administrative Data Research Centre (ADRC) support a network of accredited safe havens, which enable researchers with specific questions to access and analyse data within a secure remote environment. Specifically, eDRIS the EData research and innovation service has been set up to provide a central point of contact throughout the process of applying for data, doing research, collating and publishing results. This service is in its early stages but will no doubt prove to be invaluable to researchers.