Findings from examples of best practice
Learning from others
Participants shared examples of best practice for inclusivity, and ways that learning from others could be improved. Academic participants felt that often there are so many questions surrounding which intersectional lenses should be applied to datasets that researchers may avoid these types of analyses altogether. Exemplary practice was identified within the United States.
“Some great research that’s come out from researchers looking at engineering STEM cohorts in America, that have provided some intersectional lenses to student identity.” (Academic participant)
However, it was suggested that despite being aware of these insightful research projects
[The UK] just haven’t pulled that knowledge across into the work that we’ve done (Academic participant).
Additionally, the United States Census was praised by academic participants for their inclusion of an income variable, which participants felt would enable better analysis of income dynamics and monitoring of socioeconomic mobility.
“[That] would be extremely helpful and be super interesting to look at how different groups experience income volatility.” (Academic participant)
Knowledge sharing across government
Overall, participants noticed that coordination, and information knowledge and skills sharing across government and organisations could be much more efficient and effective. For example, through sharing resources and learning from one another, and sharing examples of best practice. Local government participants shared that if one local authority acquires, produces, and analyses a set of data to meet their local policy needs, these may not be communicated well across other local authorities, who may also have an interest in these data for their respective areas, due to limited coordination between them. Better communication and coordination were said to lead to better use of data and reduce risk of duplication of efforts. Local government participants also noted that not enough data sharing takes place between central government and local government, which leads to the exclusion of the latter from valuable information and data sources.
“As a combined authority, we don’t have access to local authority data, only if the local authorities share it with us.” (Combined authority participant)
It was felt important for local authorities to work collaboratively with their combined authority to share the data that they have, so that full programmes of support can be developed for certain minority groups.
Another barrier to shared learning and making the most of resources, reported by a central government participant, was a
lack of transparency across government around existing data. This included
what is where, what is covered, how it’s being collected and how it’s being published. Some participants felt that this can make it difficult to ascertain whether harmonised definitions were being used across government areas, and to understand the underlying data that analysts and policy makers need to work with.
“Knowledge within departments of what data they had on disability was very fragmented and there wasn’t a single point of contact who could signpost people to what they might have, but then, secondarily to that, in many cases the people in the department didn’t know whether a particular data set used GSS [Government Statistical Service] harmonised standards or not.” (Central government participant)
Suggestions for learning from best practice examples
To improve and better learn from best practice, participants suggested using the precedents set by international good practice examples to improve the regularity and simplicity of linking datasets.
“Which is bringing together social care data, health data and Department for Education data, and has managed to create a mechanism to allow that data to flow.” (Research funding organisation participant)
Another suggestion was to set up broad partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders who have different needs and create an organised user group, particularly for equalities data. Participants thought that this could increase statistical awareness and make better use of statistics in the UK. Non-metropolitan local authority participants in particular noted that the partnerships developed since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic had been particularly valuable.
“Out of a crisis may well come an element of improved partnership working, so that we can actually share knowledge and identify issues.” (Non-metropolitan local authority participant)
Scottish Government proposed planning
analytical gatherings to enable analysts to share their successes in producing impactful data on protected characteristic groups, as
that would allow others to see if that would be applicable in their own areas.
It was also suggested that knowledge and learning could be taken from the development of the 2021 Census to improve harmonisation of measures for protected characteristics groups across the Government Statistical Service (GSS).
“Making sure that there’s a real commitment across the GSS to actually using that knowledge and learning.” (Welsh Government participant)
It was advised that learning can also be taken from the UK Government’s citizen assembly on climate change, which a Northern Ireland Executive participant cited as a good practice example of
genuine random bringing together of people in a quite scientific way,,/q> to address complicated societal issues. It was also reported by a Northern Ireland Executive participant that lessons could be drawn from the Republic of Ireland’s successful approach of
testing and refining of key questions for use in their referendum, which ensured that the questions were appropriate before being posed to the general public.
Central government participants suggested that analysts across government who are working with equalities data should be able to receive training from those who are generating survey data, such as the Annual Population Survey. In addition to knowledge sharing and improved communication, this could then allow microdata to be more widely shared across government.
Producing best practice guidance for local authorities conducting their own research was recommended, for local areas to be more easily compared. Certain participants thought that this would ensure equalities information and best practice guidelines are harmonised across local areas.
“Having some harmonisation across the departments would be helpful, and just best practice guides, or, ‘Here’s the questions that we ask,’ and maybe you want to be using[…] The ‘what works centre’ type approach to asking questions, or gathering the information that you need.” (Combined authority participant)