Joined-up data for better decisions: Guiding Principles for Data Linkage

These principles accompany the associated publication 'Joined-up data for better decisions: A Strategy for Improving Data Access and Analysis'. The guiding principles are a key element of the Data Linkage Framework for Statistical and Research Purposes. They are designed to support data custodians, researchers and other stakeholders in taking decisions about safe and effective data linkage and sharing.


The Data Linkage Framework that these principles underpin concerns linkages for research and statistical purposes only. For the purposes of this Framework, data linkage is the joining of two or more administrative or survey datasets to greatly increase the power of analysis then possible with the data.

This framework is concerned exclusively with the linkage of data for research and statistical purposes where there is no direct impact on an individual because of information about that individual being linked. Examples can be seen as falling into three categories:

  • Development and production of Official Statistics, including development of alternatives to the Census and the production of aggregate statistical information.
  • Production and dissemination of research resources, such as longitudinal statistical products like the Scottish Longitudinal Study.
  • Ad-hoc research projects, or linkages conducted to answer specific research questions using statistical analyses, such as the West of Scotland Coronary Outcomes Prevention Study.

This framework concerns linkages for research and statistical purposes only. It does not cover the sharing of personal information about an individual between organisations in order to deliver a co-ordinated service to that person. Data linkage for that purpose raises a different set of legal, ethical, and logistical issues. The following examples are all beyond the scope of this framework:

  • A Child Protection Officer sharing a particular family's case file with a school and the Police, in order that all three can work together to protect a child at risk.
  • A Local Authority sharing information about named individuals claiming Housing Benefit with any other organisation for the purpose of combating fraud.
  • A GP sharing information about an individual patient's symptoms or diagnosis with a hospital in order that the patient receives a co-ordinated service from all parts of the NHS.


Email: Kirsty MacLean

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