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Scotland Talks Data: A public panel on the use of data for research

Research Data Scotland (RDS) jointly runs a public panel with colleagues at the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR). Learn more about this public engagement initiative below.

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What is the public panel? 

Established in 2019 by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR), the public panel on data helps to inform research and the use of administrative data in Scotland. Since 2023, the public panel has been jointly hosted by SCADR and Research Data Scotland (RDS) to allow it to grow in membership and enhance the different activities the panel can undertake.

The public panel is co-led by Harriet Baird, Knowledge and Impact Manager at ADR Scotland, and Katie Oldfield, Public Engagement Manager at Research Data Scotland. In Autumn 2023, the panel is increasing to a membership of 20 people representing the profile of Scotland. This means the panel will consist of members of the public from across Scotland with diverse backgrounds and lived experience of a range of issues covered in our research.

Being part of the public panel involves:

  • Discussing different research proposals
  • Advising on issues including around public trust and acceptability
  • Helping us to communicate our work in a clear and accessible manner
  • Informing further public engagement and our approach

What does the panel discuss?

The partnership between SCADR and RDS means that panel topics cover all aspects of the data journey. From what type of data should be available for research to how it should be processed to how researchers communicate their work.

The panel meets five times a year with their first meeting in November 2023. The topics covered and coming up are:

November 2023

Data Access Approvals – Research Data Scotland

Research Data Scotland presented an early version of plans to transform the data access approvals process. Discussions with the panel included how datasets are prioritised, who can access the data, how data is categorised as well as what we have learnt from the pandemic. This is a long term project which will involve the panel through it’s journey.  

February 2024

Review of Animations – Research Data Scotland

Research Data Scotland was awarded funding to create animations about data linkage, TREs and synthetic data. Some members of the panel were involved at an earlier script writing stage and the first version of the animations were be shown to the whole panel for feedback. The panel provided insight on phrasing, pace and suggested changes to the visuals.  

Mental Health and Policing – SCADR

Researchers presented on their research which aims to better understand the population who come into contact with the police while in mental health distress as well as their pattern and interaction (or lack of) with healthcare services. This research could help inform effective interventions to prevent or reduce the policing of mental ill health. The panel provided guidance on how to communicate this project and suggestions for public involvement in the research.

If you have any questions about the topics covered by the panel or would like to find out more information on the discussions please contact

What impact does the panel have? 

Over the past few years, panel participants have helped researchers and partners better understand public viewpoints on the use of administrative data for research.

One of the topics recently covered by the panel was on Synthetic Data. A new copy of a dataset that is generated at random but made to follow the structure and some of the patterns of the original data set. Each piece of information in the data set is meant to be plausible, but it is chosen randomly from the range of possible values. Their feedback was included in ADR UK’s position statement and has influenced the direction of future work on synthetic data, including how it is accessed by researchers, and started further investigation on how to avoid bias.

In another session, the panel have commented on an infographic about how properties are identified in datasets. This feedback was incorporated into the final design and will help researchers communicate their work more broadly with the public.

As the joint panel’s membership grows, participants will also help to illuminate how members of the public view different aspects of data usage for research. Additionally, panel participants will help RDS, SCADR and our partners understand how to best communicate what we do to a wider audience.

Professor Roger Halliday, Interim CEO of Research Data Scotland, said:

“We are committed to engaging with the public. Working with SCADR to co-host their existing public panel is a positive move to ensure transparency and help researchers, policymakers and analysts. This will mean we continue to listen and understand how people wish their data to be used, help them see the benefits from research and the robust measures in place to keep data safe.”

Professor Roger Halliday, RDS Interim CEO

Professor Chris Dibben, Co-Director of ADR Scotland, commented:

“We are proud of the work we have led through our public panel who provide a critical voice in shaping what we do. Joining together with RDS will help make it more sustainable and increase opportunities to influence data research in Scotland. I look forward to the exciting next chapter.”

Professor Chris Dibben, Co-Director of ADR Scotland

One of our panel members, Nigel, shared his thoughts on being part of the public panel:

“The public panel has a wide range of backgrounds and robustly challenges research projects. Despite the meeting being held online, they are very lively. All challenges are heard and discussed in a professional manner. The meetings are very varied which makes attendance more enjoyable, exploring a wide range of projects from policing and justice to health and care. I would recommend this to anyone interested in helping the good use of data.”

Nigel, public panel member

How can I get involved? 

In order to recruit a diverse range of people from across Scotland, the panel was recruited via a postcode lottery through an organisation called Sortition.

To keep up to date with future opportunities to be involved register for our newsletter or follow Research Data Scotland on Twitter and LinkedIn

Get in touch

Get in touch with the Scotland Talks Data public panel team by emailing

Recent updates:

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Blog: Ensuring a public voice in data research

Discover some of the recent topics covered by the panel and why it is vital to our work in this blog by Katie Oldfield, Public Engagement Manager.

Read the blog
Public Panel Blog

Blog: Developing and re-shaping our public panel

Harriet Baird, Engagement Lead for SCADR, discusses managing and developing the public panel and how to improve representation.

Read the blog
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RDS joins forces with SCADR to co-host existing public panel on data

Read the news story announcing our collaboration with SCADR to co-host the public panel.

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