International Population Data Linkage Conference 2016

Harriet Waugh, an analyst in the Realigning Children’s Services team,  recently attended an International Population Data Linkage Conference. Here Harriet tells us more about her experience.

At the end of August I went to the International Population Data Linkage Conference down in Wales. It was a diverse conference with over 450 professionals from over 20 countries attending, representing a wide range of professions and sectors.

I was there to discuss the data linkage work the SG are doing as part of the Realigning Children’s Services programme which aims to use linked data and improvement/implementation science to improve the commissioning and planning of children’s services in Community Planning Partnerships within Scotland. The data linkage component involves linking responses from our census approach surveys (with children aged 9 to 16 years) with local administrative data from Education and Social Work systems. This has involved working closely with CPPs to achieve this linkage, and one of the highlights from my presentation was the positive response to the approach taken by the Scottish Government which is so deeply rooted in co-production.

The conference covered a lot of ground with discussions on every possible aspect of data linkage. A couple of key points which I took from the various talks were:

  • There is a lot of different language describing the same, similar, and subtly different aspects of data linkage – interesting to consider the implications of a lack of a common lexicon when it comes to protecting data
  • Consideration for good practice – the difference between the safest use of vs. the public’s perception of the safest use of data
  • Thoughts from a lawyer working in data linkage – ‘Key barriers and not legal but cultural’
  • And one more from the Farr Institute (Professor Ronan Lyons) – ‘Trustworthy data use needs ongoing engagement – you can’t do enough public engagement’

The overall message I took from the conference was that there is no single ‘right’ way to do data linkage, although there can be many wrong ways! But on a serious note, data linkage is experiencing a period of flux whereby technological, ethical, philosophical and legal changes and advances are shaping every project we do, and it is exciting to be part of such development.

Harriet presenting at the International Population data Linkage Conference
Harriet presenting at the International Population data Linkage Conference


More information on Realigning Children’s Services  data linkage programme can be found here.

If you are interested in exploring some of the different ways data linkage is being used across the world and discussion of key issues/priorities then you can browse all of the abstracts from the conference here: