While the RSS broadly welcomes the review and supports many of the proposals being consulted on, it also believes that some proposals could go further.
For example, the RSS believes that access to data for statistical purposes should be an ‘automatic presumption’ similar to the arrangements in place for the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) rather than the ‘right to access’ currently being proposed. The Society also makes a number of recommendations to enable better access data for research purposes, arguing against the idea that government departments should charge a fee for sharing data with researchers, saying this could 'create an administrative burden in the system’.
The RSS calls for more specific details on how health and social care data (currently under a separate review being conducted by Dame Fiona Caldicott) might be linked to for research purposes with administrative data. Our statement explains: 'Many of the most socially beneficial research questions seek to link health and care data with other data domains, such as conditions of employment and welfare, education, and the environment.'
Access to data by non-public bodies is not clearly covered in the data sharing proposals, and the RSS statement points out that the way this is handled will have huge implications for public trust. Addressing concerns regarding privacy is also vital to maintaining public trust, and the RSS has asked for ‘clearer articulation’ of how these would be met.
The statement follows a well-attended joint event the RSS hosted in London on the data sharing consultation (for which the line-up, slides and audio are available). At the event, the RSS encouraged attendees to respond to the consultation and hopes that releasing this early statement will give those parties useful material to draw on.
The Cabinet Office is holding a workshop in London on 11 April, that is open to all.
The RSS also plans to submit a formal consultation response by the 22 April deadline, which will add further detail to our statement.