If the digital economy bill becomes law, it could transform social scientists’ ability to work with government data, researchers have told Research Fortnight.
The bill, which is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 December, includes proposals to allow researchers to access government-held administrative data such as welfare, tax and education records. However, health and social care data are excluded.
Public agencies tend to be reluctant to share administrative data with researchers as there is no clear, legal way to do so, said Peter Smith, director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Administrative Data Research Centre for England. “Opening up administrative data for research purposes would be a game-changer; there is a huge wealth of data waiting to be used to answer all sorts of questions,” he said.