100 reasons to share grants data

Guest blog by Ian Hanham of the Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation is delighted to become the 100th funder to sign up to 360Giving.

We fund research, analysis and student programmes that advance educational opportunity and social well-being across the United Kingdom. Good data used in innovative ways is central to so many of the projects that we fund so we welcome this opportunity to share our data in the 360Giving Standard.

From its inception in 1943, the Nuffield Foundation has always taken great pride in publishing its grants data: I know this because, on a set of shelves behind my desk, there are a full set of annual – and occasionally triennial – reports going back to March 1946.

In quiet moments I will occasionally dip into these reports and often find unexpected insights into grants we have awarded in the past. Only this morning, I read that in 1951 we funded what became the first computer to have a microprogrammed control unit, and how throughout the 1980s we made grants to fund Professor Stephen Hawking’s nursing assistance.

Since 2010 we have also published information about our grants made, their outputs and, where available, the outcomes from them on our website, which has extended the reach of this information.

Innovative ways of using data can be just as influential on policy as research evidence itself. For example, we funded a project led by Professor Anna Vignoles from the University of Cambridge that brought together anonymised data on taxation and student loan records to examine long-term outcomes for graduates. Published in 2016, the report highlighted the limitations of higher education as a driver of social mobility and continues to be influential in discussions of future funding models for higher education. But just as importantly, the project has influenced the Department for Education to develop an experimental data set known as Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO).

One of our strategic goals as a foundation is to improve the accessibility, use and collection of evidence and data. Alongside the research we fund in our core funding areas of education, welfare and justice we have established the Ada Lovelace Institute, an independent research and deliberative body with a mission to ensure that data and artificial intelligence work for people and society. We have also established the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, which aims to improve the use of data and research evidence in the family justice system.

Given our evident belief in the potential that comes from sharing data responsibly, it is an obvious step for us to join 360Giving and we hope to benefit in a number of ways:

  • Gain new insights about our own data through it being played back to us through the new 360Insights platform.
  • See how our grant-making sits in the wider landscape, where the potential for collaboration and the gaps in our portfolio are.
  • Reach a wider audience for our grant-making data, enabling more people to see what and who we are funding, to make new connections, and to encourage new applicants.
  • Encourage other grant-makers to sign up and so extend the reach of 360Giving way beyond the 100 funders and 300,000+ grants that are currently registered.

All of these possibilities and more make this an exciting moment for us – now let’s see what we can learn!