The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published a review of the data-linking practices across the government. The ONS guidance, Joined up data in government: the future of data linking methods, describes data linkage as the process of joining datasets by deciding whether two records, in the same or different datasets, belong to the same entity. It takes a joined-up approach to ensure data linkage is at the heart of improvements to the government statistics.
Further, the ONS review features expert and peer-reviewed essays on state-of-the-art data-linkage methods and applications. It emphasizes the trade-off between maintaining entity privacy and link quality. The review also looks at the challenges caused by the use of different software to link data.
The guidance also flags the usage of graph databases as a method for data linkers to store relationships between records in the database and maintaining knowledge of their potential links. By employing this knowledge, data linkers would inform subsequent linkage about data addition or change in data.
The ONS guidance can help the government make use of the opportunities to link data and enrich insights. Being able to link data will be vital for enhancing the governments’ understanding of the society, driving policy change for the greater public good, and minimizing respondent burden.