Understanding and improving data linkage consent in surveys

In the UK, survey data can only be linked to administrative or other process generated data, if survey respondents give informed consent to the linkage. Previous research suggests that people do not have strong fixed views on consent and that the decision to consent may be influenced by a range of factors.

This project aims to examine which factors influence people’s decision to consent and to develop and test ways of maximising informed consent, in particular in web surveys and when consent for linkages to multiple datasets are requested. Importantly, it takes a respondent-centred approach.

The project will test whether different features of the consent request are effective for different types of people, examine the respondent decision-making process, ascertain how informed the consent decision is, whether and how informed consent varies with the experimental treatments and respondent characteristics, and how it differs between face-to-face interviews and self-completion web surveys. The design is underpinned by a theoretical model of how respondents make the decision to consent. The project will utilise the Innovation Panel of Understanding Society and a commercial online survey to test the hypotheses.

This project will develop empirically informed principles and guidance on approaches to seeking informed consent, with the ultimate aim of strengthening the data infrastructure for social science and policy research in the UK by maximising consent, and ensuring that consent is genuinely informed.