This case study illustrates how administrative register data can be rich resources for longitudinal research, but pose challenges. Their complex data structure requires advanced data management skills; and the size of the data require careful inspection and preparation of the data before they can be analysed.
- What are the major differences between survey data and register data?
- Which manipulations may be needed to prepare register data before analysis can start?
Analysis of administrative data can be especially challenging for researchers because it is collected for the purposes of the organization rather than for research analysis, and because agencies receive external pressure to collect certain data or to format data in certain ways. Using our experiences from a randomized controlled trial study of police officer body-worn cameras, this case study outlines five challenges encountered when using administrative data. In the course of one study, we confronted overhauls to the agency’s data collection and reporting systems, personnel turnover, counterintuitive data sets, narrative data sets with no discernible patterns, and data lacking sufficient information to answer research questions. We detail our experiences and provide guidance for researchers new to analysis of administrative or agency-developed data.
- What may be typical challenges when using administrative data for research purposes?