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Data sharing and privacy in multi-agency working

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This paper analyses empirical data from a major, ESRC -funded research project concerning data-sharing and privacy in multi-agency working. The study provides the first systematic evidence about the ways in which local partnerships working in sensitive policy fields – including Mental Health and Crime and Disorder – attempt to strike settlements between sharing and confidentiality, Over 200 interviews were conducted in 77 organisations, covering four policy sectors, across England and Scotland. The analysis was framed by theory developed from the neo-Durkheimian tradition, and the research demonstrates that this theory has the power to identify and explain patterns of information sharing styles adopted in local collaborative working.

The overall conclusion is that the stronger formal regulation by national government may well be leading to the greater prominence of hierarchical institutional forms. However, the findings demonstrate that reliance on such policy tools does not always lead to consistent and acceptable outcomes, not least because of unresolved conflicts of values and aims.

The project, Joined-up Public Services: Data-sharing and Privacy in Multi-Agency Working, was a £230,000 ESRC -funded study concerning the tensions between collaborative working and respect for confidentiality in the spheres of health and criminal justice. It was co-managed by Professors Chris Bellamy (Nottingham Trent University), Perri 6 (Nottingham Trent University) and Charles Raab (Edinburgh University). It has produced a number of outputs, including conference papers, book chapters and journal articles. A co-authored book, Partnership and privacy in the information state, will be published by Palgrave-MacMillan in 2007.

Dr Adam Warren has been a Research Officer at the Department of Information Science (DIS), Loughborough University since September 2005 He completed his PhD thesis Fully Compliant? A Study of Data Protection Policy in Public Organisations at DIS in June 2003. He was subsequently employed for two years as a Research Fellow on the Data sharing and privacy project.

Dr. Adam Warren’s homepage

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