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A novice view of administrative data
Highlights from the ADR conference Belfast 21st – 22nd June 2018


The ADR2018 conference played host to nearly 250 attendees from all around the UK, Europe, Australia and Canada. As it was my first experience of a conference, it was exciting to go into the conference hall and feel the buzz from the attendees as they took their places.   Since starting my journey with ADS, I have worked with Jan and Sharon on the Approvals Panel and I finally got the pleasure of meeting Dr Elaine Mackay from ADS Manchester and Denise Kazmierczak who works for the NHS and is a lay member of the Panel.  Denise was attending the conference as a guest of ADS and, along with Elaine, joined the ADS team throughout the 2 days we were attending. Dr Mackay, who chaired some sessions, offered me advice on which of the sessions to attend, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed by being a newbie.

Queens University Belfast, was a wonderful venue for both the conference and accommodation. The accommodation was in halls only a 15min walk away from the University, and the usual Irish luck, we had glorious weather. After the conference we took the route through the Botanic Garden, which is located next to the university campus, on our way back to the accommodation!




I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha Livingstone who organised the conference on behalf of ADRC-NI and after months of correspondence it was lovely to put a face to the name. The standard of organization was excellent and the other members of the team who had been to the previous conferences considered this one to be the best so far. 


The conference Banquet was held at Belfast City Hall on the Thursday, hosted by the Lord Mayor, Deirdre Hargey.  It was a splendid evening and was thoroughly enjoyed by all! The meal and service were brilliant. Belfast City hall is a wonderful building inside and out. I was lucky enough to visit the ‘reflection space’; this is a room which served as a reminder of ‘the Troubles’ and what the people of Belfast had endured during those times.  I am also proud to say I was one of the last ones standing for ceilidh dancing along with Ilse, Judith and Danielle from ADS and other ADRN notables such as Dermot O’Leary, David Ford, Peter Smith and Ruth Gilbert

Highlights from some of the sessions I attended

You will probably notice a theme in the sessions I attended.  The conference ran sessions over both days where both academic and government researchers presented their research projects on the themes of children and education, the world of work, growing old, health and well-being and methodology.

Dr Michael Schull, President, CEO and Senior Scientist from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, Canada.

‘Data, Data Everywhere’

From this opening session, Dr Schull made it very clear just how important he considered public engagement is and how external influences can have an impact on research.  This engagement need to come in three ways; making the public aware, consult and giving the public empowerment.  Dr Schull was very engaging with the audience along with his presentation.  Interestingly, when discussing the public engagement they had carried out, their research showed that the members of the public in Canada had responded in the same way as our Ipsos Mori consultation prior to setting up the ADRN.  Many of the conclusions they had come to and many of the specific comments they quoted, were very similar to those collected prior to setting up the ADRN.



Maternal vulnerability and birth interval in England: a birth cohort study using hospital episode statistics from 2006 to 2016

(Linda Wijlaars)

This session I recognised as one of the projects that I had seen go through the Approvals Panel and it was a delight to see their research findings so far, knowing the process they had gone through.

What I learnt was eye opening,  as the recommended inter-pregnancy intervals set by RCOG (The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists)  were at least 12 months and WHO (World Health Organisation)at least 24months, due to the risks associated with having another baby too close together.

This information was not given to me 2.5 years ago at the hospital or by the health visitor after having my first child. This research highlights the risks associated with having babies too close together, which I think should be just as important as discussing contraception and support after birth. I would be very interested to see how this research advances, as there are many avenues to where this research could go and the impact could potentially be far-reaching.

The research was looking at NHS hospital births 2011. The evidence looked at the risks, adverse, preterm deaths, biological conditions over ages 12-50 years

The findings: 50% of women had another baby before the WHO guidelines, results for younger mothers were higher. These factors maybe be due to adverse reasons, e.g. socio economic backgrounds etc. The older women in the research also found they were more likely to have another baby under the recommended guidelines of RCOG and the reasons for them could be due to age.




Prenatal monotherapy and polytherapy with psychotropic drugs are more likely in women of lowest socio-economic status

(Jenny Fairthorne)

The research in this session was carried out in Canada and the findings really made me think about the adverse factors that can truly effect the outcomes, and the avenues Jenny Fairthorne could take to delve deeper - which are endless and just fascinating!

After this session Denise Kazmierczak, Jan Paterson and I had a lively discussion about how many women of the highest socio-economic status may have been more likely to plan their pregnancy, therefore, would have come off the drugs earlier or had the options for alternative methods, unlike the women of the lowest socio- economic status.  It was particularly interesting discussing this research with Denise, as she works within the NHS in an outreach role among mothers in Aberdeen.


Preterm birth, unplanned hospital contact and mortality in infants born to teenage mothers in five countries: a cross-country comparison using linked administrative data

(Ruth Gilbert)

Prior to attending this session I heard that Ruth Gilbert is a leading authority on research on all aspects of child health and notably established the definition of ‘child deprivation’ which was published in the Lancet.  Ruth stood in for one of her colleagues for this session.

The five countries were New South Wales, (Australia), Sweden, Canada, Scotland and England and the age groups were taken from 4 sets of aggregated data.   I would summarize her presentation that the evidence shows that all the needs of support for Preterm births, unplanned hospital contacts and mortality in infants born to teenage mothers are still not being met.  My thoughts personally after attending this session are that I hope that research can bring to light the lack of support for teenage mothers across the five countries, which I am sure is just the tip of the iceberg. 



The Northern Ireland Baby Hearts Study: A Case-Control study using a hybrid data linkage method

(Nichola McCullough)

This session made me think about the public and how, as mentioned by Dr Michael Schull in his opening key note speech, engaging with the public - making them aware, consulting them and empowering them - could lead to amazing results with regards to research. 

In this session, Nicola advised they used a questionnaire to obtain their data and offered women the use of an iPad at their GP for completing the short questionnaire and recording their data.  It came with a high completion rate compared to previous surveys using paper forms.  This session was close to home for me, as we had a scare at my 20 week scan with my son's heart, this research is just at the beginning but I am sure its findings will be fascinating to read.


Indicators of adversity recorded in hospitalisation records of children aged less than 5 years or their mothers: a record linkage study of children born in England in 2011

(Toqir Mukhta)

What I learnt from this session is that the support needed for mothers and babies within the first 2 months of birth is critical.  The statistics provided in this session, were shocking and I found it upsetting. It made me think that without this research these women and babies are left without real support and that’s not including the mothers and babies from GP records or those who don’t come forward as this data is only capturing hospitalisation records.  It is a small proportion of the bigger picture but it is has given me hope knowing that with this research the support needed can be recognised and provided.


Professor Anna Vignoles   (University of Cambridge/ESRC Council), another Keynote speaker, talked about the future of administrative data research in the UK from an ESRC perspective and the use of LEO  (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data.  Prof Anna Vignoles touched upon the lessons learnt such as legal barriers and collaborative effort and large scale investment, as well as the  advantages of using administrative data from a scientific perspective and the impact as well as public benefit.


She spoke about the LEO project and outlined that this was research using data which had not been shared by the Department for Education before.  She considered that the advantages of obtaining access to this data for the first time outweighed the restriction on the research i.e. it was research that the Data Owner wanted carried out. 

Her hope for the future was that other researchers would be allowed to carry out their own research using this data.  It was her belief that researchers need to work in partnership with the government in order to obtain wider access to administrative data 


In conclusion she summarised with ‘reflections’




It was a pleasure to have met Katy Karnell, she was part of the judging team who had just chosen the winner of the poster presentation to Laura North for her poster titled, “Osteoporosis and Fracture Risk in Wales.”


My overview of the conference, is not just of the memories I made, the people I met but it has left me with a mind full of fascinating information and the thoughts of the possibilities of what might be to come from the research I heard about during the conference.  It was a unique opportunity to hear researchers presenting their own research and learning that the phrase ‘Data, Data Everywhere ‘was indeed the case!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to attend the ADR conference in Belfast.  It was such an amazing experience for me, both personally and professionally.  From the moment I arrived, through networking and listening to the sessions, to the moment I left Belfast, I felt inspired by those I met and I am now seriously looking at my future and the possibility of returning to education.

More information about the conference:

Written by Jennifer Wheeler, ADS Administrative Assistant. Published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Published on 17 July 2018

Page last updated: 31/07/2018