Understanding Population Trends and Processes (UPTAP) – A Secondary Data Analysis Initiative

UPTAP logoThe primary purpose of Understanding Population Trends and Processes (UPTAP) is to build capacity in secondary analysis and promote the use of large-scale social science datasets, both qualitative and quantitative. The largescale datasets which are currently available contain data which can potentially be used to investigate a very wide range of substantive social science research questions. However, this initiative concentrates on a single topic, the demographic trends and socio-economic processes which affect the economy, society and the population.

This ESRC-funded initiative is predominantly targeted at those who are at an early stage in their research career, or mid-career researchers wishing to enhance their skills, experience, knowledge and expertise in secondary analysis. The co-ordinator of this initiative is Prof John Stillwell of the School of Geography, University of Leeds.


Secondary data analysis is the further analysis of an existing dataset which was collected for some other particular (primary) purpose or purposes. It includes various analytical practices that use existing data to investigate new research questions or to re-examine primary study questions for the purpose of corroboration. Secondary analysis presents interpretations, conclusions or knowledge in addition to, or different from, that presented in the first report on the enquiry as a whole and its main results.

The challenge for those undertaking secondary analysis is to understand the conditions under which the data were collected so that they may be correctly interpreted, to devise ways of making imperfect data substitute for primary data, and to be imaginative and skilled in applying and developing methods that take account of these factors but still address the questions at hand.

The principal objectives of the initiative are:

  • to build capacity in secondary analysis amongst new and mid-career researchers
  • to spread knowledge and use of secondary analysis through the social science community
  • to add value to the ESRC investments in the collection, preservation and promotion of large-scale national data sets, by encouraging their use and exploitation
  • in the longer term, to maximise the knowledge gained about economic and social change from secondary data analysis.

The initiative funds a range of projects, including:

  • secondary analysis postdoctoral fellowships
  • postdoctoral small grants
  • mid-career fellowships
  • small secondary analysis research projects
  • larger capacity building projects (with linked studentships)
  • UPTAP user fellowships.

The initiative will maximise the benefits of investment in large-scale data over the last few decades. ESRC investments in such resources include the following classes of social science datasets:

  • large scale longitudinal datasets that trace cohorts or refreshed samples of the population over time and capture the transitions that occur over the life course
  • large scale household or individual surveys of opinion (eg social attitudes) or behaviour (eg voting), which link socio-economic, demographic and geographic attributes to particular views or actions
  • national datasets produced by the government statistical service (particularly the Office for National Statistics) of two kinds: national household surveys (eg the Quarterly Labour Force Survey) and census datasets (from the 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses).

Some of the topics addressed include: fertility, motherhood, childlessness, childcare, health and wellbeing, employment and demographic change, identity, ethnicity, segregation, religiosity, political and social values, cohabitation, mobility and education.

UPTAP round 2: ethnicity projects

Under round 2 of the UPTAP programme, 12 projects were awarded that involve the analysis of secondary data sets relating to ethnicity. Five of these projects are on ethnic neighbourhoods and integration; one is on immigration and employment, two are on ethnicity and health; two are on ethnicity and crime; and two are on projections of ethnic populations.

UPTAP user fellowships

Under the final funding round of UPTAP, six new User Fellowships were commissioned to add to the four already funded under the programme.

How to access this resource

Details of this initiative are available at UPTAP website.

Further information

  • Prof John Stillwell, Co-ordinator
    School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT
    Email: j.c.h.stillwell@leeds.ac.uk
    Telephone: +44 (0)1133 433315
    Fax: +44 (0)1133 433308
  • Bruce Jackson, ESRC
    Email: bruce.jackson@esrc.ac.uk
    Telephone: 01793 413016