Students Staff

15 December 2015

Essex big data projects feature in ESRC magazine

Filed under: Research impact — Tags: — Communications Office @ 12:28 pm

Britain in 2016Two big data projects based at Essex have been featured in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s annual flagship magazine.

Britain in 2016 showcases the economic and social research funded by the ESRC, and this year’s includes a feature on how data can help society to work better and businesses to compete.

The article looks at the Administrative Data Research Network, established in 2014 to allow researchers to carry out social and economic research using administrative data, and the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre, set up to help companies, local authorities and academics to use data more effectively.

Dr Melanie Wright is Director of the Administrative Data Service, which co-ordinates the Administrative Data Research Network here at Essex. She told the magazine: “We set out to build a new research infrastructure, which would enable researchers to have access to incredibly rich, important and detailed data – but to do it in a way that is safe, secure, regulated and controlled, and always in the public interest.”

The three-page feature examines how the Network consulted privacy groups to address public concerns about how data are used. “Right from the beginning,” Melanie adds, “we were aware that there’s huge public concern about privacy and how government uses data collected about people – data that’s really not recorded for the purposes of research.”

The article also examines the role of the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre, also established in 2014. Professor Vania Sena, Director of the Centre, based at Essex Business School, says, “There is a layer of companies, especially in our region, which would benefit from being able to analyse big data, but they don’t have the skills or technical knowledge to do this. We focus on SMEs and local government. We collect their data sources and try to merge them with additional sources of data to create a more detailed picture.”

One of the research projects it has undertaken examined what faster broadband means for local businesses – whether transactions are now made electronically, for example, and if businesses are Skyping their suppliers. The Centre also trains businesses in using data to increase productivity and efficiency.

The Administrative Data Research Network, meanwhile, has around 50 projects at various stages of development, including one which will look at the socio-economic impact of Northern Ireland’s ‘peace walls’.

Britain in 2016 is out now, and available at WH Smith, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Boots.

You can also order a copy by emailing:



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