Go back

Willetts unveils £34m Big Data network

Five universities across the UK will lead the Economic and Social Research Council’s Big Data network, science and universities minister David Willetts has said.

The chosen institutions, announced on 9 October, are the universities of Edinburgh, Essex and Southampton, Queen’s University Belfast, and Swansea University. The Administrative Data Research Network is intended to enable research using data that has been linked between government departments.

Essex is hosting the UK’s administrative data service, which began on 1 October, and is directed by Melanie Wright. It is intended to act as a single point of entry for researchers looking to access administrative data or improve their analytical skills. The data service will also help coordinate the four administrative data research centres that will be hosted by Edinburgh, Queens, Southampton and Swansea.

Together the service and centres will receive a total of about £34 million. This grant comes as the first phase of the ESRC’s planned £64m investment in Big Data.

Paul Boyle, chief executive of the ESRC, said that the core aim of the network was to “facilitate linkage of routinely collected administrative data, thereby stimulating opportunities for innovative research and policy-making”. He added that this would benefit researchers, government, local communities and the public, saying “there is the potential for a revolution in our ability to answer a host of questions that were previously intractable”.

The formation of the ADRN was informed by the work of the Administrative Data Taskforce, which in turn was formed in 2011 by the ESRC, the Medical Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust.

The founding of the ADRN is the first phase of the ESRC’s Big Data Network. The second phase is to focus on business and local government data. Phase three will deal with data from the third sector and social media.