Each year, around 400 projects gain approval to access the secure data we manage for statistical research. The research outcomes inform an extremely diverse range of economic or societal issues, including the UK government's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The awards recognise the excellent and innovative analyses carried out and promote best practice research methodologies and data matching or linking. The awards promote greater awareness and understanding of the data available and the public good achieved by statistical research.

We are pleased to announce the winners of the ONS Research Excellence Awards 2021.

Project Award

Dr Mark Green, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool
Local Data Spaces – supporting Local Authorities' responses to Covid-19

How can centralised secure data sources be mobilised to inform local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic?' The research team then advocated for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS), helping three Local Authorities (LAs) access and use the service. This upskilling enabled LAs to use new data and research to inform policy decisions. Where resources to use the SRS were unavailable, the research team co-designed local policy responses by deploying analysis ready data solutions using the SRS themselves. The research team worked with a total of 25 LAs, identifying common requirements for responding to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.

Programme Award

Vasileios Antonopoulos, Race Disparity Unit, Cabinet Office
Covid-19 Racial Disparities Project

The Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit (RDU) conducted research synthesis to report on the disproportional impact of COVID-19 experienced by ethnic minority groups. The RDU's synthesis connected data providers and researchers, including OpenSafely, the SAGE working group on ethnicity, VirusWatch, the Office for National Statistics, the King's Fund, UK-REACH, the REACT study and NHS England. RDU's quarterly reports identified new risk factors for different ethics groups, leading to a series of government interventions to protect ethnic minorities from infection and mortality from COVID-19. These included communication drives against vaccine misinformation targeting ethnic minority groups and recording ethnicity on death certificates, supporting ongoing studies.   

Early Career Researcher Award

David Buil-Gil, Department of Criminology, University of Manchester
Small area estimation for criminological research

The aim of this research was to develop a framework of theory, simulation and application of 'small area estimation' to criminology, bridging the gaps in existing methodologies involving research of crime in small geographic areas. Published across four research papers, this PhD produced reliable small area estimates of survey-recorded crime and perceptions of crime.     

Linked Administrative Data Award

Rachel Plachcinski, City, University of London
Involving the public with an analysis of daily, weekly and yearly cycles of births using linked data

This data linkage study used a three-tiered approach to improve public involvement and engagement in maternity service research. With support from maternity service user representatives and researchers, the team developed on previously limited public involvement and engagement in research involving linkage and secondary analysis of routinely collected maternity data. They supported the use of sensitive health data, which facilitated the project's potential for improved safety and quality of maternity services.   

People's Choice Award

Nadia Butler, Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University
Cycles of violence in England and Wales: the contribution of childhood abuse to risk of violence revictimization in adulthood

This research investigated the relationship between childhood abuse (including psychological abuse, physical and sexual abuse and witnessing domestic abuse) and the risk of physical assault, intimate partner violence and sexual violence in adulthood. Victims of childhood abuse were up to seven times more likely to experience violence as an adult. This findings from the current study suggests preventing childhood abuse. This finding was important evidence supporting efforts to prevent childhood abuse.