ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK) has today (6 October 2020) announced a grant of almost £600,000 to harness the potential of administrative data to better understand the characteristics of farm households with a view to improving future policies and enhancing the wellbeing of farmers and their families.
The AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection) project, led by a team within ADR Wales, intends to link data across the UK to create the first UK-wide de-identified data platform focused on agriculture. The ambitious programme plans to bring together public sector data on agricultural and land use activities with demographic, educational and health data to better understand the people who work in the sector in the UK and their defining characteristics. The exact project plan will be determined by close engagement with farming stakeholders and scientific researchers across the UK.
AD|ARC aims to provide evidence that will help government better understand and support farmers, their households and communities, and will involve the farming community throughout in the development of research questions and the interpretation and communication of findings. It is hoped that research findings will inform future policy decision making, potentially leading to better responses to challenges such as improving productivity, responding to environmental pressures, generating better health outcomes, and improving farm household income.
AD|ARC brings together data linkage researchers and experts in agricultural affairs with partner organisations including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales (PHW). The Principal Investigator is Dr Paul Caskie of the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute, Northern Ireland.
The AD|ARC project aims to link data on agricultural and land use activities, collected for the EU Farm Structure Survey 2010 with socio-demographic data for farmers, members of the farmer’s household and farm workers. These data sources provide a resource with a high level of consistency across the UK. The project will also seek to acquire data about farm subsidy payments, farm turnover, farm family health and educational attainment. Although the project will not collect new data, the intention is to update and extend the collection over time as administrative datasets are refreshed. As a pilot, the project will seek to bring together as much data as possible on the characteristics of the wider rural community in Wales and to examine their education and health.
All data utilised in the UK-wide programme will be de-identified – meaning all personal identifiers have been removed. It will be held in a secure environment and only made available to accredited researchers undertaking approved projects, subject to strict governance and disclosure control measures.
This is one of several funding grants made by ADR UK, an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) investment which aims to transform the way researchers access the wealth of administrative data already created by government and public bodies across the UK. The recommendation to fund the AD|ARC was made by ADR UK’s Research Commissioning Board (RCB).
Dr Paul Caskie, AD|ARC Principal Investigator, said:
“Farming in the UK underpins the nation’s food security, generates economic benefits and shapes a rich and varied landscape. Likewise, farming families, residing in the same location often over many generations, are vital to the social make-up of rural areas. Farming is at a crossroads in the UK as a result of Brexit and phasing out of policies implemented under the EU Common Agricultural Policy.
“The AD|ARC investment is a significant move to better understand how people working in the sector, especially farm families, can be better served and supported. AD|ARC will focus on the human element of this important sector of the UK economy. By linking and analyzing – in a sensitive and secure way – existing data from a number of sources, we can help to highlight where policies to aid the sector are most effectively delivered.
“AD|ARC will create a data hub to enable the generation of new evidence to support policy affecting farming, farmers and farming households for years to come.”
Announcing the funding of AD|ARC, Dr Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, said:
“As ADR UK’s first major project looking at the farming sector, and the first to truly involve all four UK nations, I am extremely excited about the vast potential of AD|ARC to improve the lives of farmers and agricultural productivity across the country.
“Administrative data is – as for all other sectors of society – an invaluable tool for forming a better understanding of the lives of farmers and their vital contribution to UK society. Now more than ever, with the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU and the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the horizon, it is absolutely the time to make use of this existing wealth of data. By linking together relevant data sources from across the country and making them available for research, we can improve decision makers’ understanding of how best to ensure the UK’s farming industry, and the people at the heart of it, are supported to thrive.”