2 October 2012
A world-leading initiative, which brings together some of the most important studies of people's lives in the UK – including Children of the 90s – has been launched this week. It will focus on nine of the country’s leading studies, with participants born as early as 1911 and as recently as 2007.
A world-leading initiative, which brings together some of the most important studies of people's lives in the UK – including Children of the 90s – has been launched this week by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).
The UK is home to the largest and longest-running longitudinal studies in the world and the Cohorts and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resource (CLOSER), as the initiative is known, will pay a vital role in maximising the use, value and impact of these studies both within the UK and abroad. It will focus on nine of the country’s leading studies, with participants born as early as 1911 and as recently as 2007.
Professor Jane Elliott from the Institute of Education in London will lead a team to establish a national centre of excellence across the nine longitudinal studies. ALSPAC will be represented by its executive director, Ms Lynn Molloy and its head of laboratories, Dr Sue Ring.
Strengthening the links between these studies will allow researchers, policymakers and others to make much better use of the rich and detailed data on people’s lives gathered over many years in the UK. Repeating the same longitudinal analysis across a number of studies allows researchers to test whether results are robust, and how they are changed by the context in which data has been collected.
Cross-cohort analysis helps the understanding of changes in society and how policy impacts on people’s lives. For example, understanding the background to issues such as the rise in obesity and the stagnation or decline in social mobility requires longitudinal data collected from several generations of people.
A major element of CLOSER will be a single tool that enables researchers to find the information they need for their analyses across all the cohort and longitudinal studies involved. The search platform will be designed for use by a wide range of users with very different levels of experience in data management, analysis and discovery. It will provide a simple, intuitive interface, encouraging more researchers to use longitudinal data and thereby stimulating interdisciplinary research.
CLOSER will also offer a programme of training which will enable a whole new generation of researchers and policymakers to use these rich and complex longitudinal data to help inform key areas such as education and health. It is a £5-million initiative over five years and part of the larger £33.5 million Birth Cohort Facility Project which includes the new birth cohort study – Life Study.
The Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:
‘Cohort studies give unparalleled insights into people’s lives and their life chances. This excellent new facility will make that easier than ever before.’
Professor Elliott, Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, added:
‘I am delighted to be given this opportunity to lead this pioneering initiative which will help researchers to address key questions – for example about the factors that are important for children’s wellbeing, and about behaviours and experiences that influence health in later life.’Lynn Molloy, Executive Director of ALSPAC, said:
‘CLOSER is a fantastic opportunity for UK-based cohort studies to work together to better utilize the research arising from these studies. I am delighted that ALSPAC is involved in this groundbreaking project.’