We run four of Britain’s internationally-renowned cohort studies:
Our cohort studies follow people through life. In the case of our oldest cohort, we have been keeping track of their lives for more than 60 years.
We regularly survey the people who take part in our studies and collect information about all aspects of their lives. We anonymise this information and make it available to researchers around the world to use in their work.
Alongside the work of running the studies, we also carry out research, mainly using the data from our cohorts and other longitudinal studies.
Read on to find out more about what we do.
We regularly survey the people who take part in our studies, using a range of techniques. This includes face-to-face and telephone interviews as well as paper and online questionnaires which cohort members can fill in themselves. During their childhood, we also ask cohort members’ parents, or caregivers, teachers, and others to provide additional information.
Our studies have a strong biomedical element, including health assessments, like measuring blood pressure and weight, and we collect biological samples such as blood and saliva. We also ask cohort members to do tests or exercises. Examples include word tests, to find out about their language skills, and exercises designed to test their memory.
We use various innovative methods and new technologies to collect other types of information. For example, when we surveyed our youngest cohort when they were 14, we asked them to complete a time use diary, via an app or on the web, and wear an accelerometer.
We consult with the research community about the content of each survey, so that we can make sure we ask cohort members the most important questions, or undertake the most important assessments each time.
When each survey is complete, we clean the data and deposit it with the UK Data Service, who make it available free-of-charge to researchers around the world
We also share our vast experience of survey methodology, in areas such as sampling, maximising participant response, questionnaire design, surveying special groups, and using new technology in longitudinal surveys. We regularly collaborate with survey teams from other studies, and take part in national and international survey methodology events to share best practice and research findings.
Raising awareness of our studies and helping researchers to develop the knowledge and skills to use the study data in their work is an important part of what we do.
We run training events, both face to face and online. These are designed both to introduce our longitudinal studies to researchers who are new to them, and to help all researchers find their way around particular data sets.
We also provide extensive documentation and written guidance on each data set.
We undertake multidisciplinary research on issues that affect all our lives: child development, education, social mobility, health and wellbeing, families and family life, and ageing. We also conduct research into survey methods, and applied statistical methods.
Our applied statistical methods programme specialises in methods for dealing with attrition, causal identification, and data harmonisation.
Our research helps tackle some of the key challenges we face in our society today.
To find out more, take a look at the research area of our website.
Three of our studies, NCDS, BCS70 and MCS, are part of CLOSER. CLOSER is a UK consortium which aims to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s longitudinal studies – both at home and abroad – to improve our understanding of key social, economic, environmental and biomedical challenges.