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A UK-wide public dialogue exploring what the public perceive as ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics

4 October 2022
Last updated:
2 June 2023

Executive Summary

Recent years have seen ever increasing possibilities to generate insights from administrative data collected from the public by public services, bringing an even greater need to include the public in conversations about its future use (DARE UK 2022; Waind, 2020).

The potential for research and statistics to be used to inform decision-making and improve the understanding of our society has been envisioned as serving the public good, by both academics and professionals working in the voluntary and public sectors (HDR UK 2021a; Involve, 2018). Public good (also sometimes termed ‘public interest’ or ‘public benefit’) is considered to be central to decision-making as public sector data can only be used to produce statistics if its purpose is considered to serve public good in accordance with the Digital Economy Act (2017).

Yet, so far, although the public regularly cite the public good use of data for research and statistics as a core condition of their support for data sharing and use, there is no consensus on how public good is understood by the public (Cowan & Humpherson, 2020; DARE UK 2022; HDR UK, 2021b; Waind 2020).

To address this, ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK) and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), supported by independent researchers Kohlrabi Consulting, undertook a deliberative dialogue exploring public perceptions of ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics.

In June 2022, 68 members of the public took part in a series of UK-wide deliberative workshops, with analysis of 24 hours of conversation. Whilst a consensus was not always reached by participants, the evidence has been synthesised into five broad themes. Many of these findings feed into one another; together they provide insight on points to consider when using data and statistics in a way that is consistent with serving the public good.

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