Big data and public policy

Global business cloud computing service of big data information technology concept, illustration by immimagery/Adobe Stock

immimagery/Adobe Stock

Advances in digital technology are making it possible to collect, store and process ever-expanding amounts of data. This explosion of data holds tremendous potential to boost innovation, productivity, efficiency and, ultimately, economic growth and social value.

However, the use of ‘big’ data raises many questions, such as on access, ownership, accuracy and validity, privacy, security, governance, standards and interoperability, alongside intellectual property rights and data science.

Understanding the context and impacts of the complex problems associated with big data, as well as related cultural and governance issues and policy frameworks, is of critical importance for businesses (across all sectors), governments, research organisations, citizens and policymakers.

Our research addresses a wide variety of the questions regarding big data and its potential and we continue to apply innovative research processes including novel data-intensive methods.

'Nowcasting' migration

In recent years, unprecedented waves of refugees, economic migrants and people displaced by a variety of factors have made migration a high-priority policy issue around the world. Despite this, official migration statistics often come with a time lag and can fail to correctly capture the full extent of migration. New research has developed a methodological tool to compute new real-time migration, to better inform policy decision in the rapidly changing social policy sphere of international migration.

Related research RAND Review feature

Oversight of emerging science and technology

Emerging developments in science and technology can be applied in different ways across sectors and services. Many countries, including the UK, regard advances in these areas as key for delivering benefits to society and the economy. Researchers reviewed science and technology around the world through ten case studies, identifying crucial lessons to help policy makers encourage and enable emerging science and technology going forward.

Read our commentary

Protecting human rights

Digital technologies and services create both opportunities and challenges for the fostering, safeguarding and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Interventions to foster and strengthen safeguards for human rights in the digital age take place in a rapidly evolving technological, political and socio-cultural landscape. Research finds that several overarching principles could inform and guide organisations’ capacity-building efforts.

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Pharmaceutical reuse of health data

The health data landscape is rapidly evolving, with a growing recognition of the potential benefits of reusing health data for secondary analysis by the European pharmaceutical industry. An exploration into current practices related to reusing this data found that several important factors can support or hinder the reuse of it. Researchers identified several key topics for further discussion that could help create a sustainable ecosystem in which health data are reused effectively.

The credit information market

Credit information is most commonly used by lenders to assess the financial standing of an individual for loans. The credit information market is however a diverse ecosystem of stakeholders that extends beyond the relationship of financial institutions and their customers. Researchers conducted a forward-looking study to understand how the credit information market might evolve in the future. They identified four plausible scenarios of how the market may develop in five to ten years’ time, as well as some potential key drivers of change.

Evaluating the impact of technology on the services sectors

New and potentially 'game-changing' technologies such as advanced robotics, autonomous transport devices, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, and wearable devices, will inevitably impact the EU's services sectors. Researchers explored their applicability and wider socio-economic implications for the future of employment, productivity, skills, working conditions and work organisation.

Creating standardised impact indicators for REF 2014

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 was a nationwide exercise to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The next REF will be carried out in 2021.

To inform the development of the guidance and criteria for the preparation of impact case studies in REF 2021, we examined the case studies submitted to REF 2014 and identified quantitative indicators of impact. We then developed guidance for how these indicators could be standardised for potential use in REF 2021.

Assessing digital technology for disease prevention and control

Digital technologies offer a number of opportunities for infectious disease surveillance, prevention and control. Understanding up and coming technologies could help to improve situational awareness, and inform the coordination of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s infection control in response to outbreak events

RAND Europe is assessing the availability and use of digital technologies with potentially beneficial or disruptive impacts on public health key functions, focusing on infectious disease surveillance, prevention and control.