The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Research Excellence Awards 2024 are currently being developed. Further details about this year's criteria, and how you can apply, will be provided in the coming months.

Learn more about the previous winners on this page.

1. Background

Each year, around 250 projects gain approval to access the secure data we manage for statistical research. The research outcomes inform a 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 made available and the public good achieved from statistical research.

Award winners are invited to attend our annual Research Capability events in London for an official awards ceremony, presented by National Statistician, Sir Ian Diamond.

The annual awards in their current format will not go ahead in 2023, but we will be celebrating research excellence from use of secure data in the 2023 ADR UK Conference: Public data for resilience and inclusion.

2. Winners, 2022

For 2022, we were delighted to announce four award winners in the following categories:

ONS Research Excellence Award

Winner: Prof. Sinead Langan, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Project: COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (SIS)

Research theme: Health, social care and wellbeing

Project summary: The COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (SIS) is a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Public Health England, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The survey was established in Autumn 2020 to provide decision and policy makers data of SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission within school settings. The outcomes were evidence for control measures to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) within and from schools.

The result of this project is one of the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal research studies undertaken globally in primary and secondary schools, involving 156 schools and 22,585 participants. This has allowed the results to be disseminated by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Department of Health and Social Care with context. The guidance to policy makers recommended partial and full school closures and the "school-gate" efforts to limit the extent to which infected individuals were present on the school campus. This allowed schools to stay open while reducing the prevalence of COVID-19 in teachers and students in school settings.

Read more about the COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (SIS) project.

ONS Cross-government Analysis Award

Winner: Dr Becky Arnold, University of Keele and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

Project: Controlling the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable settings

Research theme: Health, social care and wellbeing

Project summary:The spread of COVID-19 is of particular concern in vulnerable settings, such as care homes, hospitals, prisons, and schools. The work, conducted for the UKHSA, sought to establish what was the most effective testing strategy to use, from both health and economic standpoints. The work was done in conjunction with a wide range of expert stakeholders.

A large number of data sources were used including Test and Trace data, vaccination data, mortality data and publicly available sources to model the spread of COVID-19 within these settings under different testing strategies. The model was used to inform the decision making of policy departments by providing robust evidence and advice around the likely outcomes of testing strategies in vulnerable settings. The work informed the overall understanding of UKHSA of the differences between settings and the unique considerations for managing the spread of COVID-19.

Read more about the Controlling the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable settings project.

ONS Linked Administrative Data Award

Winner: Andromachi Tseloni (Nottingham Trent University) and Tom Jackson (Ministry of Justice)

Project: Data First: Criminal Courts Linked Data - An exploratory analysis of returning defendants and the potential of linked criminal courts data from 2011 to 2019 in England and Wales

Project summary: This project used the newly created magistrates' courts, Crown Court and linked datasets as part of the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) pioneering administrative data linking programme Data First, funded by Administrative Data Research (ADR UK). This aims to provide a foundational understanding of the data and offer powerful new insights for policymaking. 

The research helped to build a fuller picture of defendants' interactions with the criminal courts and how cases progress through the justice system and, for the first time, analysis to demonstrate the extent and nature of repeat court users at scale. The analysis further identified the proportion of defendants who reside in the most deprived areas of England and Wales using the 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation. These insights are critical to understanding what works to improve justice user outcomes, developing the empirical evidence base underpinning the MoJ's departmental priority to reduce reoffending.

Read more about the Data First: Criminal Courts Linked Data project (PDF, 2412KB).

ONS Early Career Research Award

Winner: Nicolas Libuy, University College London

Project: Gestational age at birth, chronic conditions, and school outcomes: a population-based data linkage study of children born in England

Research theme: Health, social care and wellbeing

Project summary: This project established the link between school achievement for children and adolescents with underlying chronic conditions and between education outcomes and subsequent use of hospital services. This was achieved through linking the National Pupil Database (NPD), Personal Demographic Service (PDS), Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and mortality data, with linkage success rates of 92% to 99% for children born between 1990 and 2005. The result of this work has seen recommendations to policy makers for additional support for high-risk groups based on early health indicators and socioeconomic factors shown to influence later outcomes.

The success of data linkage was further reported by ethnicity and deprivation, allowing the researchers to identify biases and the potential to underestimate the health needs of disadvantaged groups. This established outcomes relevant to all users of linked data and promoted transparency in reporting errors as well as successes. This project has led to the launch of ECHILD -- a major new resource providing insights into the inter-relationships between health and education.

Read more about the Gestational age at birth, chronic conditions, and school outcomes project.

ONS People's Choice Award

Winner: Prof. Sinead Langan, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Project: COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey (SIS)

Meet the 2022 judges

The judging panel for the 2022 ONS Research Excellence Awards included a diverse range of expertise to evaluate your submissions, bringing with them experience from across the research community.

Mark Green

Mark is Reader in Health Geography at the University of Liverpool. They were lead on the 2021 ONS Project Award winner "Local Data Spaces" which sought to help Local Governments make best use of data held in the ONS's Secure Research Service for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bogusia Wojciechowska

Bogusia is a Research and Impact Manager at Administrative Data Research (ADR) UK. She has a PhD in Economic and Social History which involved the linking of 19th century government records. Until recently she worked in higher education in the United States, most recently as a Dean at a college in Boston, Massachusetts.

Bill South

Bill is the Deputy Director for Research Services and Data Access (RSDA) at the ONS. He leads the division responsible for running the ONS's Secure Research Service (SRS). Bill's team works as an important partner within ADR UK to bring new datasets into the SRS to enable research in the public good. They also provide dedicated end-to-end support to users of the service, from initial application to disclosure checks on completed analyses. Finally, the team leads on the development of the service element of the new Integrated Data Service (IDS).

Jackie Carter

Jackie Carter is a Professor of Statistical Literacy at the University of Manchester, a National Teaching Fellow and a one-in-twenty Woman in Data. She is the author of the book "Work placements, internships and applied social research", and set up the award-winning Data Fellowships programme as part of the national Q-Step initiative. Jackie has spent her career working to make data available for research and teaching. Through her work she ensures social science graduates can access careers in data, and believes passionately in learning by doing.

Frances Pottier

Frances Pottier heads the Business Statistics team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which produces official and National Statistics on business and supports business-related analysis and research across the department. The team's outputs include the UK Innovation Survey and Longitudinal Small Business Survey which are both available on the SRS. She has previously been Deputy Head of Profession for Statistics in BEIS as well as managing the production of National Statistics on construction in ONS and BEIS predecessor departments.