Understanding Society is the largest household panel study in the world which addresses the key scientific and policy questions of the 21st century. It collects high quality annual longitudinal data on individuals of all ages in households representative of the UK population. Such data enables researchers to explore the experience, causes and consequences of changes in people's lives - their family structure, health, income, expenditure, employment and education - key issues for policy makers today. The Study also has boost samples that allow the detailed exploration of the circumstances of key immigrant and ethnic minority groups. It collects data on cognition, objective measures of health, genetics and epigenetics to understand how people's health & wider circumstances interact. Understanding Society is underpinned by rigorous methodological development, evaluation & implementation. More specifically, the Study has an innovative panel dedicated to experimenting with new ways of collecting data to continually improve the content & quality of data available. Lessons from our approach are shared through academic dissemination & more formal & informal engagement with other studies in the UK & internationally.
The Study was inaugurated in 2008 with an Innovation Panel to test methods & the first main wave of fieldwork in 2009. It builds on & incorporates its predecessor, the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which started in 1991. At the end of 2020 18 waves of BHPS , 10 waves of Understanding Society, & 12 waves of the Innovation Panel, as well as data collected from a nurse visit and derived from blood samples, have been deposited in the UK Data Service. Genetics and epigenetics data are available by contacting the Study. In 2020, we introduced a monthly COVID-19 web survey, data from which is also deposited in the UK Data Archive. As well as data from the survey, a wide range of geographic identifiers are available to enable researchers to link to contextual data, and a growing set of linked administrative data such as the National Pupil Database.
Supporting researchers in universities, government, third sector & businesses to use the data effectively is fundamental to the success of the Study. We provide users support, training & create added value resources to better enable users to make effective use of the data, and disseminate the findings from wide ranging researchers more broadly. We also have a Policy Unit that directly works with government departments & third sector organisations to encourage and support their use of the Study and to enable effective impact generation.
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East of England