We live in a data filled world. In recent years, many of us have become increasingly aware of this fact and vigilant about how our data is protected and used. But do we really know the value of this data for improving the health and social well being of our society?
Our personal data is collected in numerous ways by a wide range of public service delivery systems. These services include government departments, education systems, social housing organizations as well as health and social care providers. Data held by these service agencies are commonly known as administrative data because it is collected primarily for administrative purposes i.e.: registrations, record keeping and service transactions. The structure and scope of this data is particularly useful to researchers due to its inter-disciplinary, cross-sectional, and longitudinal attributes. It also provides a valuable and cost-effective source of individual-level records that can be used to address important questions regarding societal factors impacting people’s lives, their health and wellbeing. Research using administrative data can explore a wide range of issues in our society such as: Do early academic experiences shape children's later academic achievement? Does ethnicity impact diabetes prevalence and the risk of heart failure? and Is there a "safe" level of air pollution in British Columbia.
Despite their enormous value, administrative data do come with specific challenges. Unlike researcher collected data that undergoes a high degree of rigor over the type and timing of information collected, administrative data can come with inconsistencies and errors. As a result, researchers must be knowledgeable of the data’s potential limitations and skilled in data assessment, modification, and transformation in order to maximize its potential. An article published with the support of The UK Administrative data Research Network highlights these views by addressing, The Good, the Bad and the Clunky: Improving the Use of Administrative Data for Research. The article addresses ways to improve and maximize the use of administrative data; it also emphasizes the skills and knowledge that researchers need to effectively use these data.
If your career passion calls you to make a difference in our society, why not explore how to use administrative data in your work this Fall! Learning how to use this data to study important questions directly related to the health of our society is a key component of what the PHDA 01 Working with Administrative Data course offers. The next offering of PHDA 01 is this Fall 2022.