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Risk identification and management for the research use of government administrative data

Elizabeth Shepherd (Department of Information Studies, UCL, London, UK)
Anna Sexton (Department of Information Studies, UCL, London, UK)
Oliver Duke-Williams (Department of Information Studies, UCL, London, UK)
Alexandra Eveleigh (Wellcome Library, Wellcome Collection, London, UK)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 1 October 2019

Issue publication date: 31 March 2020




Government administrative data have enormous potential for public and individual benefit through improved educational and health services to citizens, medical research, environmental and climate interventions and better use of scarce energy resources. The purpose of this study (part of the Administrative Data Research Centre in England, ADRC-E) was to examine perspectives about the sharing, linking and re-use (secondary use) of government administrative data. This study seeks to establish an analytical understanding of risk with regard to administrative data.


This qualitative study focused on the secondary use of government administrative data by academic researchers. Data collection was through 44 semi-structured interviews plus one focus group, and was supported by documentary analysis and a literature review. The study draws on the views of expert data researchers, data providers, regulatory bodies, research funders, lobby groups, information practitioners and data subjects.


This study discusses the identification and management of risk in the use of government administrative data and presents a risk framework.

Practical implications

This study will have resonance with records managers, risk managers, data specialists, information policy and compliance managers, citizens groups that engage with data, as well as all those responsible for the creation and management of government administrative data.


First, this study identifies and categorizes the risks arising from the research use of government administrative data, based on policy, practice and experience of those involved. Second, it identifies mitigating risk management activities, linked to five key stakeholder communities, and it discusses the locus of responsibility for risk management actions. The conclusion presents the elements of a new risk framework to inform future actions by the government data community and enable researchers to exploit the power of administrative data for public good.



Shepherd, E., Sexton, A., Duke-Williams, O. and Eveleigh, A. (2020), "Risk identification and management for the research use of government administrative data", Records Management Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 101-123.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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