SAIL Recognised in OSR UK Data Linkage Overview and Future Recommendations

The SAIL Databank has been cited as a successful example of data sharing and linkage in a new report by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

Titled ‘Data Sharing and Linkage for the Public Good’ , the report examines work across central government and devolved administrations, highlighting how data sharing and linkage is at a critical juncture.

The report draws on examples of work undertaken throughout the UK, resulting in the creation of 16 recommendations to enable best practice in data linkage work for the public good. The recommendations cover four key areas; obtaining social licence, addressing leadership and skill factors, streamlining non-technical processes, and overcoming technical challenges.

The SAIL Databank is a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) and is presented as a successful example of data sharing, linkage and engagement. Within the report, SAIL Databank is firstly used as a case study to illustrate where public engagement is being done well within the public sector and how it can inform greater understanding of social licence.

The report highlights:

  • SAIL Databank is a trusted research environment (TRE) that enables research communities to access, link and analyse routinely collected population and health data within a safe and secure remote access environment.
  • SAIL Databank make regular use of their Consumer Panel which is made up of members of the public.
  • The public are involved from design to output stage of a project process for projects that are likely to have high public interest.
  • When assessing research proposals, Research Ethics Committees (REC) look favourably upon proposals that incorporate public involvement at an early stage as this is good evidence that the research is ethically sound and in the public interest.

Alongside this, SAIL Databank was also highlighted for its efficient data access.

The report highlights:

  • For SAIL, the time between data request and data access is roughly 3 months, although it can be as little as 1.5 months.
  • This is considered a quick turnaround time for data access within TRE.

SAIL Databank has three key enablers to this efficient data access:

  1. An efficient and consistent process
  2. A primary focus on public interest and privacy protection
  3. Reducing the need for repetitive tasks

Professor Simon Thompson, Director of the SAIL Databank said:

“Since its establishment, the SAIL Databank has continually strived to create a secure platform that enables the safe reuse of routinely collected data for research that has the potential to benefit society. We are delighted that our efforts, our technological advancements and our conversations around the reuse of data for research have been recognised in this report, and we take on board the recommendations as we look to build on our work.”

The SAIL Databank works alongside  with the Administrative Data Research Wales (ADR Wales), part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded ADR UK. Collectively the organisations work to revolutionise accessibility to the UK’s extensive public sector data for researchers and to facilitate well-informed policy decisions that ultimately improve people’s lives.

The OSR is the independent regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority, and as a body, they provide independent regulation for all official statistics produced in the UK. Its main goal is to enhance public confidence in the reliability, quality, and value of government-produced statistics, which are considered essential public assets. To achieve this, they establish standards outlined in the Code of Practice for Statistics that must be met by statistics producers. They conduct assessments to ensure compliance with these standards, and statistics that meet the criteria are granted National Statistics status, indicating their highest level of trustworthiness, quality, and value. Additionally, the organisation publicly addresses system-wide issues and the use of statistics, praising instances where standards are upheld and raising concerns when they are not met.