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Making Data PB

Making data work

‘Making data work for public sector policy’ is a project that brings together cultural sector partners, data specialists and policy makers to explore how better data can lead to better policy.


Wonderlab at National Science and Media Museum in Bradford: Photo: Lee Mawdsley
We Are Bradford. Photo courtesy of National Science and Media Museum

Better data, better policy

There’s a data deficit in the cultural sector which can make it challenging to evaluate the differences culture makes to people and places. Data is often poor quality and there is no standardised approach to collecting and managing it. As a result, policy and funding decisions aren’t always informed by evidence and can feel disconnected from the people and places they have an impact on.

This scoping project, funded by the Economic Social and Research Council, will look at how these challenges can be addressed. Running from January 2021 to March 2022 it brings together cultural sector partners, data specialists and policy makers to explore how better data might lead to better policy.

What does the project involve?

There are four strands to the project.

1. Data standards and protocols

We are working with the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) and culture-sector arm’s-length bodies (organisations that are funded directly through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to develop a new set of data standards and protocols.

Working with our cultural partners, we’ll co-develop a new data management framework to improve the ways data is collected, managed and stored. With consistent data standards in place, data from the arts and cultural sector can be cross-analysed with other large data sets that LIDA holds e.g. public health data. This will open-up cultural sector data to new analysis and generate new knowledge and policy insights.

2. Evaluation frameworks

Following on from the development of our Cultural Evaluation Principles, in this project we are co-developing a cultural evaluation framework that will combine qualitative and quantitative methods. The evaluation framework will be people and place-centred with the ultimate aim that the learning and insights generated will lead to policymaking that is more responsive to people and places.

3. Bradford case study

Working closely with Bradford partners, we will scope out the potential to run a case study of Bradford, piloting the cultural evaluation framework and data management protocols. Supported by Born in Bradford, the case study strand will explore how creative practitioners can work with researchers to generate different insights and methods of working and how people’s cultural engagement might be captured ‘in the moment’. Our partners in Bradford are the University of Bradford, The Leap, Bradford City of Culture 2025, Bradford Council, Bradford Producing Hub, Born in Bradford and the National Science and Media Museum.

4. Policy

We are engaging with local, regional and national cultural funders and policymakers to explore how policy development might make better use of both qualitative and quantitative data and become more responsive to the lived experience of people and the places where they live and work.


  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
  • Arts Council England
  • The Audience Agency
  • Leeds Institute for Data Analytics
  • MyCake
  • Bradford 2025, Bradford Teaching Hospitals / Born in Bradford, LEAP, Bradford Producing Hub, National Science and Media Museum and Bradford City Council
  • BFI
  • British Library
  • British Museum
  • Historic England
  • Horniman Museum
  • Imperial War Museum
  • National Gallery
  • Natural History Museum
  • Royal Museums Greenwich
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Royal Armouries
  • Science Museum Group
  • Tate
  • V&A
  • Wallace Collection
Two people interacting with buckets on their heads. Two people in foreground take pictures on their phones.
Activating Art Through Body, Disguise & Performance. Photo courtesy of Tate

Research team

Professor Ben Walmsley (Principal Investigator), University of Leeds
Dr Lou Comerford-Boyes, University of Bradford
Dr Beatriz Garcia, University of Liverpool
Sue Hayton, University of Leeds
Dr Siobhan McAndrew, University of Bristol
Professor Jonothan Needlands, University of Warwick
Dr Lynn Wray, University of Leeds


For further information about the project email Lynn Wray

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