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Scotland’s data network focuses on protected characteristics


Mark Chillingworth


Scotland’s Data and Intelligence Network (D&IN) is developing a dataset to enable improvements to equality for protected characteristics.

The dataset will improve research into equality for protected characteristics by providing a complete picture of them within the Scottish population, D&IN said in a blogpost announcing the project.

“By bringing this data together, we will enable the linking of protected characteristics to administrative data from public bodies and academic organisations for research projects that meet strict information governance requirements,” it said, adding that it believed the dataset will enable organisations to better consider equality issues when planning and delivering services.

A single dataset will reduce the cost of primary data collection in Scotland. “By acting together, we can get a collectively better understanding than by acting alone.”

D&IN was formed in May 2020 as part of the Scottish Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic by providing an evidence based analysis to local and national decision making in Scotland. The organisation is a community of data experts from healthcare, local government, social care, the Scottish Government and other public sector organisations. Together they have developed real-time data systems to inform policy.

The protected characteristics dataset will not contain personally identifiable information. D&IN said the data sources would be: The National Records of Scotland 2011 Population Census, Public Health Data (a multiple of Scottish Morbidity Records) and the Educational Analytical Services Schools Pupil Census Data.

The creation of the dataset will be achieved in three phases. Phase one, to scope and agree on the dataset, including an assessment of the ethics of the project, has been carried out and work on the governance and testing of the dataset quality has been completed.

The second phase of sampling and limited testing of the linking of external data, which focuses on specific use cases, is about to begin, and the third phase will expand the dataset to include additional data sources and protected data items and a review of the use case to guarantee the dataset fits the original remit.

“With the sensitivity of the data being collected, the project team recognise there is a need for appropriate consultation,” D&IN said.

21 interest groups that represent the public perception and concerns are being engaged as part of the programme.

Image from iStock, gopixa

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