This public dialogue included four in-person workshops which took place across the UK in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast, and one online workshop for those who were unable to join in person. In total, 68 people participated in the initial workshops, and ten were invited to a follow-up workshop to clarify workshop discussions and bring together UK-wide viewpoints.

Deliberative Approach

Deliberative discussion was selected as the most appropriate methodology due to its techniques to generate informed opinions from a starting point of little to no understanding. The issues under discussion in this study were very complex. The terminology, starting with what data and statistics actually mean can be complicated, let alone the laws and common practices within data and statistics use.

The premise of deliberation is to logically and incrementally build up a shared understanding through interactive activities and knowledge-sharing, while giving participants the tools to interrogate their learnings and original viewpoints. These tools are comprehensive yet accessible materials which incorporate both the pros and cons and a more nuanced range of perspectives on the topic of interest, and extensive time and space for reflection and questions. Small groups of differently situated people, supported by a neutral facilitator, allow participants to learn from each other and safely develop their ideas.

The deliberative design fulfils several best-practice criteria produced by recent reviews of public involvement in data research (Aitken et al., 2019; Jones et al., 2020). Members of the public are enabled to feel empowered  conversation, rather than the answers being set up for them.

Advisory Group

A Project Advisory Group was created to ensure key stakeholders were involved to inform how the dialogue was conducted. People invited to be members of this group had relevant expertise and the ability to utilise the dialogue findings to inform their respective organisation’s processes and policies.

The ADR UK Public Engagement Steering Group also provided oversight at key points in the project.


Inclusivity and diversity were high priorities when considering participants for this project, therefore, recruitment was done via a community-based approach. This means recruitment was undertaken mostly by ‘community researchers’, or lay members of the public living in a city or rural areas in each of the four nations. Up to three community researchers were employed in each nation to produce their own nation-specific recruitment strategy. This involved considering how to break down local barriers, modes of invitations, as well as ways to participate in the project. To support inclusion, the recruitment team had an equal gender split and included a range of age groups, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and interests.

Potential participants were either engaged with directly via local networks and community services, or indirectly via physical leafletting, posters, and online social media groups. To help ensure a range of participants were recruited for this project, community researchers targeted a wide variety of services, community spaces, and local businesses, in locations spanning the UK.

When appropriate, trusted community groups across the UK were also offered compensation in the form of a £20 voucher to help disseminate the project advertisement to networks beyond the community researchers.


A total of 72 participants registered for the initial workshops, with 68 attending.  Participants were asked to confirm that they were over 18 and were currently living in one of the four UK nations. Fifteen spaces were allocated to people living in each of the four nations of the UK. The other formal limitation on participation was that participants did not work with or study data or statistics, as the aim was to understand the perspective of the general public. To improve accessibility of the events, participants were offered the option to take part online, with consideration for those with at-home caring responsibilities, and special arrangements were offered for those who joined in person. Participant demographics are included in Appendix B. In recognition of their valuable time and input, participants were offered a £150 digital voucher for the initial round of workshops and £60 for the follow-up workshop.

Procedure of the Main Workshops

The workshops took place in June, with five workshops repeating the same content and format. Each in-person workshop involved a maximum of 10 participants who were split into groups of four to five participants each; each group had a facilitator and separate note-taker. Participants in the online workshop were split into five breakout rooms of four to five participants, also with a facilitator and separate note-taker per breakout room. The online breakout rooms were assembled to include at least one person from each of the four nations to ensure representation from across the UK. Both in-person and online workshops ran between 10:00 and 15:30, with a coffee break and a lunch break. All audio was recorded and facilitators followed a script to ensure topics were covered consistently.

Each workshop began with facilitators covering workshop aims and agenda with space for questions and further explanations. Prior to the workshops, participants were communicated with by phone call, text and email, as per their preference, to manage expectations and address any potential concerns.

The workshops included two short ‘explainer’ presentations from representatives from ADR UK and OSR to contextualise the use of data for both research and statistics. With this exception, participants spent the entirety of the workshop undertaking interactive activities and group reflections. Topics and questions explored are detailed in Appendix C.

Participants were encouraged to explore the nuances of data and statistics use by engaging with hypothetical case studies of different uses of data for research and statistics, and a range of real-life perspectives on data for research and statistics. Participants were given time and encouragement to talk to each other and help each other reflect about each issue, as well as being prompted by their facilitator.

The Follow-up Workshop

A follow-up online workshop took place in July, roughly a month after the initial workshops, to clarify topics and themes discussed in the initial workshops and bring together UK-wide perspectives. Ten of the original participants were invited to attend the follow-up workshop. As far as possible, a participant was invited from each of the original workshop groups. The follow-up workshop had three aims:

  • to validate analysis of the workshops to ensure what participant feedback has been accurately communicated,
  • to answer questions about the initial themes, as advised by the Project Advisory Group,
  • for participants to explore practical applications of their views with the intention to develop some guidance for how the public perceives ‘public good’ use of data for research and statistics.
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