Using longitudinal and ‘big’ data in social research – SGS Summer School 2014

SLS-DSU will be holding a one-day course as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School 2014 in Edinburgh on June 16th.  The day is open to postgraduate students and practitioners from anywhere in the world.

The course will focus on the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) and the types of research it can be used for. The SLS links together routinely collected administrative data for a 5.3% representative sample of the Scottish population (about 270,000 people). It includes a wealth of information from the censuses (1991-2011), vital events registrations (births, deaths, marriages), weather and pollution data, and education data from 2007 onwards. With appropriate permissions the SLS can also be linked to other health data sources including cancer registry and hospital admission data.

The size and scope of the SLS make it an unparalleled resource for analysing a range of socio-economic, demographic and health questions, including those which are based on reasonably rare events. The longitudinal nature of the SLS is particularly valuable, as it provides insights into the health and social status of the Scottish population and how it changes over time. The SLS dataset includes the dates at which SLS members experience outcomes such as marriage, widowhood, death etc. To analyse such data we can calculate the time to event of interest and use survival analysis techniques to compare groups – examples of research using these techniques are given.

In short, the course will outline the benefits of longitudinal data, along with the challenges of using it, with a particular focus on the SLS. Information will be provided on the different types of data included, how to access the SLS, and procedures for requesting linked NHS data. To introduce SLS data there will be a hands-on session in SPSS (no SPSS experience is required). Additionally, we shall introduce details of other resources that are becoming available through the ‘big data’ investments such as the Administrative Data Research Centre – Scotland (ADRC – Scotland), and the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) at Glasgow University.

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