WWCSC continues its service to the Social Care sector through its data archive housed in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS)
What is this all about?
Our work involves collecting lots of data so we can conduct research that will be used to write a report on the evidence we have developed on whether something works or it doesn’t work. The research report is shared with the Children’s Social Care Sector and Central & Local Government so it can inform government and social care policies that best reflect what works for children in social care to improve their lives in real world situations.
The report may also be published as a scientific research paper and/or presented to multiple organisations around the world. We try to positively affect the lives of children as much as we can all over the world through the evidence we gather.
It is known in research work that one research project may need to be repeated and the results compared. We also know that data collected in one research project can be of great value to future projects. We want the knowledge we’ve acquired through our research to be put to more good use.
Our data archive provides the ability to hand on the great findings from one project to another to help and further improve the lives of children throughout the world although we recognise this process is quite slow. Having a data archive significantly speeds this up too. New research projects will not need to gather data they need for their projects if it already exists in our archive thus potentially saving countless years of time.
Don’t worry there are plenty of checks and balances we perform to maintain absolute security. Firstly, the data is de-identified before being added to our archive, this means no individual person can be identified from any research project’s data in our archive. The only people that can be identified are the researchers who did the research and a few WWCSC employees as you might expect.
We use state of the art technologies, including high-level encryption and approval mechanisms for transfer to the archive, and for any further use of the data of the data by new researchers which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) keep under strict control.
For example, the ONS Secure Research Service (SRS) is a good choice because they have some called the “5 Safes” methodology which you can read more about here. This includes such things as data our data never leaving the SRS, you’re not physically (or digitally) able to download any data.
To even get access to the SRS in the first place is by being an accredited researcher with the ONS which is no easy task either. Then there is the requirement to only do any further analysis using our data, from specific ONS controlled locations and must be conducted within an ONS digital platform.
What about Data Protection for your data archive?
We go to great length to make sure we continue to take data protection very seriously for any project data destined for our data archive. Every research project we conduct or commission to be conducted presents a data protection notice to all the research participants which informs them that their de-identified personal data will be uploaded to our data archive.
Each data protection notice for each research project can be found within the project’s research information which we publish on our website here although not all projects’ research data is destined for our archive either. This is determined very early on and long before anyone collects any data from anyone.
We also conducted a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), as was our legal obligation, and consulted with numerous organisations including the Department for Education, the Office for National Statistics, similar research organisations, outside legal counsel and the UK’s data protection regulatory authority the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). All of which assisted with advice, guidance and support to confirm we had everything right before any data was uploaded to our data archive. You can review the DPIA here.
What about new researchers who want to use the data in your data archive?
Not only do they have to jump through the numerous hoops set out by the Office for National Statistics to go near our data but WWCSC also has to approve any new researcher’s project. WWCSC has an Archive Access Approval Panel where it reviews not only the research’s project proposal but also whether the individual researcher is in the right industry.
This goes back to WWCSC’s original existence which is to improve the lives of children in the social care sector, we must be confident that any further use of our data within our data archive also aligns to WWCSC purpose for existence. Where something about the research or the researcher does not align to this goal the project will be rejected and we notify the ONS not to provide access.
We care about how our data will be used and we rigorously maintain protections for the data so everyone can be certain we have the best intentions of the individual who kindly gave us their data, in mind. If we have the thought that one of our research participants would not be comfortable with the access that is being requested, it is automatically rejected. If you would like to know more about this process or are a researcher with a project in mind where our data archive might hold something of use to you, please read our Data Archive – External Researcher Guide which can be found here.