Local Data Spaces wins ONS Research Excellence Award

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A project that helped local authorities across England harness crucial data in the fight against COVID-19 has won an ONS Research Excellence Award.

The six-month Local Data Places project was one of around 400 projects approved to access Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) secure data during 2020 and early 2021. It was partly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Supporting local authorities’ responses to COVID-19

The pandemic placed a strain on local authorities’ resources, and infection and transmission of COVID-19 were exacerbating existing inequalities.

Local Data Spaces were secure and bespoke virtual research areas created within ONS’s Secure Research Service (SRS).

They enabled local authorities, and regional groups of local authorities to access data that would help

  • inform their response to the pandemic
  • understand its wider impacts.

The project brought health and economic data together in an accessible, digestible format for local authorities.

Crucially, it provided them with expert support to interpret the data where needed.

Excellence in data use

The Research Excellence Awards recognise the excellent and innovative analyses carried out and promote best practice research methodologies and data matching or linking. The awards promote greater awareness and understanding of the data available and the public good achieved by statistical research.

Local Data Places won the project award in the ONS Research Excellence awards in recognition of how it made centralised secure data able to be mobilised across the country.

It was funded by Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) and the ONS core ESRC grant.

In September it was announced that ESRC will invest over £90 million in ADR UK, ensuring policy-relevant data linking and research projects across the UK can continue.

Read the news story.

Responding to local priorities, contexts and needs

The team met with 25 local authorities to understand what data they needed to respond to the pandemic.

They used datasets held within the SRS such as

  • NHS Test and Trace
  • the COVID-19 Infection Survey
  • the Business Structure Dataset (BSD) register
  • the Business Registry and Employment Survey (BRES).

These datasets were supplemented with openly available datasets, like Google mobility data.

Research themes

For each local area, reports were built to profile the themes of

  • demographic inequalities in COVID-19
  • ethnic inequalities in COVID-19
  • geospatial inequalities in COVID-19
  • excess mortality
  • occupational inequalities
  • population, housing and affordability
  • social economy
  • industry densities
  • economic vulnerabilities
  • human mobility.

The project empowered local authorities to make use of the best data available to inform and tailor their local responses to the pandemic.

Local Data Spaces team

The project was led by

  • Maurizio Gibin (UCL)
  • Mark Green (University of Liverpool)
  • Jacob Macdonald (University of Liverpool)
  • Simon Leech (University of Leeds).

Last updated: 26 October 2021

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