NILS Research Showcase

NILS Research Showcase  - Thursday 29th March 2018

On Thursday 29th March at Riddel Hall, Queen’s University Belfast will be hosting a research showcase featuring work conducted using the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study.

This half-day event supported by the Public Engagement Office at QUB will be opened by Dr Ian Shuttleworth, the Director of NILS-RSU.  It will include talks on Caregiving, Bereavement and Mental Health in families by Dr Aideen Maguire and Fertility in Northern Ireland by Dr Pat McGregor.

The aim of this event is to bring researchers and community organisations together to highlight mutual interests and promote the work and value of the NILS to the wider community.

As places will be limited, please contact Deborah Hyden ( or Neil Rowland ( in the first instance to register your interest in attending.

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QGIS Course

A 1-day introductory course on ‘Mapping Population Data using QGIS’ has been organised by the NILS Research Forum.  It is aimed at those who would like to learn how to map spatial data using QGIS (free and open-source GIS software) but have not previously used GIS software. 

The course will be held between 9.30am-3.30pm on Thursday 22nd March 2018 in Room 01.017 (GIS Laboratory), Elmwood Building (School of Natural and Built Environment), Queen’s University Belfast.  See the flyer for more details.

If you have any questions about the course, or you would like to secure a place, please contact Neil Rowland ( by Thursday 8th March.

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RSU Closure Dates

The RSU secure environment will be closed on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th March 2018 for RSU staff training.

On Friday 29th March the RSU secure environment will not open until 2pm.

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Call for PhD Applicants

Please see link to a call for applicants for a fully funded PhD based in the School of Natural and Built Environment, QUB:  Cohort Life Chances 1991-2011 Using the Census Longitudinal Studies.

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School Level Information Available

The NILS Research Support Unit has released a new NILS data update which includes School level information.  The additional SCHOOL table provides information on school enrolment for 2010/11 and can be linked to the CENSUSP_2011 table.

The latest NILS database now includes Health card registration data until April 2017, GRO Births, Deaths, Marriages and Widow(er)hood data until December 2015, Properties data updated to December 2015, Weather data, Pollution data and School data.

Please refer to the ‘What data are included’ section of the NILS-RSU website for the most up to date versions of the NILS Metadata and Data Dictionary.

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NILS Synthetic Data Spine

The NILS synthetic data spine is now available for downloading here.

A simple proportional fitting algorithm has been used to extend the national 2011 Census Microdata Teaching files (derived from the Samples of Anonymised Records) to include longitudinal transitions (currently a ten year transition back to 2001), derived from the real LS data.  The synthetic spine state transitions are for some of the most commonly used variables in social science research, including health, marital status, and religion, as well as estimates for the numbers of births and deaths.  These data are for general use and will allow users who are unfamiliar with longitudinal data to get a feel for the kinds of questions that can be answered by following individuals through time and observing changes in their characteristics.

Please note, the NILS synthetic data spine contains synthetic data based on the NILS and does not contain real NILS data.  Real NILS microdata are available in the secure environment in NISRA Headquarters, Colby House, Belfast.  The microdata are never released outside of this secure environment.  Researchers may apply to use the NILS data by contacting NILS-RSU.

Further information on synthetic LS data, including the downloadable synthetic data spines for the NILS, the ONS LS and the SLS can be found on the CALLS-HUB website.

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NILS Research Forum - Training course in R statistical software

Instructor: Dr Colin Gillespie (University of Newcastle)

Date: Monday 7th to Wednesday 9th August 2017 (inclusive)

Location: Room 0G/010, Main Site Tower, Queen’s University Belfast, BT7 1NN 

The NILS Research Forum, alongside the Q-Step Centre in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast, are running a three-day training course in R statistical software. The course is suitable for those with little or no experience in the use of R, while the topics of graphics and statistical modelling may be of interest to current R users. A one-day introductory workshop will be held prior to the training course to provide an overview of R basics, which will lead on to the three-day course; therefore, it is recommended that participants attend both. Further information on the course and registration details are available here. Places are limited and therefore will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, so register without delay. 

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NILS Research Forum – Postgraduate Research Seminar

When: Friday 31st March 2017, 11am - 1pm

Where: Conference Room A, NISRA HQ, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast

Details: The Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) is an important data resource for research at both postgraduate and undergraduate level. This NILS Research Forum seminar has been organised to provide current and recent postgraduates with an opportunity to present an overview or aspect of their NILS-based research. A diverse range of topics will be covered including:

  • Social mobility and the emergence of new mixed-community identities
  • Evolution of labour market inequalities in NI over time
  • Effect of residential mobility on mental health outcomes
  • The relationship between birth weight and educational attainment

Details of the speakers and their presentations are provided in the programme. Please come along to support what will be an informative and interesting event; tea/coffee and sandwiches will be provided. If you are interested in attending, please confirm your place and provide details of any special dietary requirements to Brian Foley at by Friday 24th March 2017.

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NILS 10 Year Anniversary Event

The Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study Research Support Unit's (NILS-RSU) celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) took place at Queen’s University Belfast on December 5th 2016.

This unique dataset, established in 2006, and supported and funded by the NI Statistics and Research Agency, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Public Health Agency has grown rapidly over the past decade and now incorporates four Censuses as well as a wealth of information on births, deaths and migration events. Over 100 projects are in progress, or have been completed, with users drawn from NI, Great Britain, Continental Europe and the United States.

The day started with three introductory talks, and two morning sessions outlining the range of significant research that was made possible by the NILS. The afternoon session looked forward to the development over the next five years and to the ways in which the NILS can continue to grow. 

Please see the flyer and programme for further details of the event and the speakers and presentations.

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NILS Research Forum - One-day beginner's level crash-course "Applied statistics: using software to analyse population data"

Lecturer: Dr Stefanie Doebler

Date: 12th September 2016, 10am - 4pm.

Venue: Room 01.021 computer cluster, 1st floor Elmwood building, School of GAP, QUB.

Course Content:

  • How to handle large datasets such as the NILS
  • Inferential statistics, descriptives (measures of centrality such as mean and median, and variation such as standard deviation)
  • Tabulating proportions and percentages using software
  • Some simple data visualization techniques using software (such as bar charts, line charts, scatterplots)
  • Correlation
  • OLS and logistic regression using statistical software: some first steps

This course is free to students and users of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS).

The course is suitable to those at a beginner's level in applied statistics, especially undergraduate students, those who want to prepare for dissertations using data such as the NILS, and policy oriented potential NILS users who are interested in analysing the NILS data and want to build up the necessary statistical skills.

We have 15 places. To book a place please contact Stefanie Doebler:

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1981 Census Data - Now Available

Full details of all the NILS/NIMS variables (including descriptions, field values and SPSS/STATA analysis code) are available in the NILS Data Dictionary and supplementary information in NILS Metadata and NIMS Metadata (Version 2.0).

 *If you have any issues opening the data dictionary please try using Google Chrome or Internet Explorer*

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NI Science Festival - What Big Datasets Can Tell Us About Population Change & Health in Northern Ireland


Dr Stefanie Doebler (Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study); and 

Ms Siobhan Morgan (Honest Broker Service, BSO).


The “Big Datasets” event at the NI Science Festival was organised by Stefanie Doebler and introduced how demographers and geographers use population data from Northern Ireland to answer questions about population health and changing life circumstances over time.

The two speakers, Stefanie Doebler (school of GAP, QUB, NILS-RSU) and Siobhan Morgan (Honest Broker Service, BSO) introduced two major data sources, the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS), which is the largest representative longitudinal population study existing in the UK and large, unique health data from the Business Services Organisation (BSO).

Emphasis was placed on what uses stakeholders and policymakers have for analyses based on large population data and how research using these data can help shape policy.

Figures and examples showed how social change & population health can be graphed and mapped to answer questions about neighbourhoods, families, health, housing and more.

The event was a success and we look forward to running similar events at the next Science Festival.

Friday 26th February 2016.

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NILS Newsletter

Latest Edition of 'NILS News' (Winter 2015) available here.

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Webinar: The UK Census Longitudinal datasets

Friday 6 May, 2-3 pm

CeLSIUS and UK Data Service will be hosting a short webinar introducing the ONS LS, NILS and SLS, covering:

  • an introduction to the three datasets and the research units that support them
  • some examples of research based on them
  • guidance on how you can apply to use the data
  • restrictions on use and publication that users need to know about

To find out more and book your place visit:

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UK LS Roadshow 2015!

This year, CALLS Hub is hosting a series of Roadshows across the country to reach out to potential new LS users. Come along and find out more about our work, hear researchers share their results and speak to members of all three RSU teams!

For more info and to book tickets:

  • Mon 26th October, Aberdeen

  • Wed 28th October, Glasgow

  • Tues 10th November, Bristol

  • Jan 2016, Wales (details to follow)

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Research Forum Course - Demographic Methods using Longitudinal and Area-Data

Instructor: Dr Paul Norman (University of Leeds)

11th & 12th January 2016, 9.30-16.00

Queen’s University Belfast, McClay Library Training Room 2


Day 1: Demographic Analysis of Area, Individual and Longitudinal Data

This one day course will provide contexts for and practical experience of calculating demographic measures relating to population structure, fertility, mortality / illness and migration. We will first concentrate on demographic data for geographical areas. This will include devising population pyramids and calculating fertility rates, standardised mortality / illness ratios and migration rates. We will then switch to the use of cross-sectional individual microdata and the cross-tabulation of variables to differentiate demographic rates by different population sub-groups (e.g. self-reported health by ethnic group). Longitudinal microdata will then by used to show how demographic rates change over time.

Data sources to be used:

Area measures: Vital Statistics, census and mid-year estimates for local authority geographies; Individual microdata, cross-sectional: the ‘2011 Census Microdata Teaching File’ (similar to Sample of Anonymised Records); Individual microdata, longitudinal: a synthetic dataset linking individuals from 1991 to 2001; Data and contexts are UK-focussed.

Mathematical and statistical methods & software being used:

Mainly the calculation of rates (based on numerator / denominator) with consideration of related confidence intervals and binary logistic regression; Excel for the area data and SPSS for the individual data.


Day 2: Measures of Deprivation and Area Type

Deprivation indexes and geodemographic classifications aim to reduce multidimensional attributes of areas to a single score or summary description which captures the essence of each area’s characteristics. Deprivation measures and geodeomographic schemes are widely used in research on spatial variations in many phenomena, ranging from health and crime to education and economic activity but the strengths and weaknesses of these measures is often poorly understood. This course will first explain the geographies which are used for deprivation and geodemographics schemes and the data sources which are used as inputs. Then, ‘traditional’ measures of area deprivation will be explained followed by a practical in which participants will calculate small area deprivation. Then, the methods underpinning geodemographics will be explained along with their usage in both commercial and academic situations. Participants will then develop a classification using ‘k-means’ one of the regularly used approaches.

Data sources to be used:

For both the deprivation index and classification practicals, data will be from the 2001 Census and for the Lower Super Output Area geography; If the course presenter gets time, equivalent datasets for small areas in Northern Ireland will also be made available so that participants can use these. At the time of writing, no promises are given!

Mathematical and statistical methods & software being used:

There are some examples of calculations in Excel but the practical work will all be carried out using SPSS. It is possible to calculate the deprivation measures with the methods here using Excel but the classifications method needs SPSS (or other statistical packages not used in this course);

Preliminary requirements: Previous experience of these programmes is ideal along with basic mathematics and statistics.

Each of these two courses is a day-event in its own right and can be booked as a standalone, but it is recommended to take them both in combination, as they complement each other.

The courses are aimed at NILS-researchers, academics and postgraduate students from QUB, Ulster University and NILS/NISRA staff. The events are free of charge for NILS-users, students and academic users, staff at Queen's, Ulster University, NILS-RSU, NISRA, and HSCNI. If you would like to participate and secure your place, please send an email to, with your name, email address and role and affiliation (NILS-user or not, University, staff/student).

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Longitudinal Data Analysis in STATA by Prof. Fiona Steele

The NILS Research Forum is offering a 'Longitidunal Data Analysis  in Stata' course aimed at NILS-researchers, academics and postgraduate students from QUB, Ulster University and NILS/NISRA staff this year. The events are free of charge for NILS-users and for students, but we would ask staff members who are not NILS-users to pay a course fee of £10. 

Instructor: Prof. Fiona Steele (London School of Economics)


If you would like to participate and secure your place, please send an email to, with your name, email address and affiliation (NILS-user or not, University, staff/student).

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Exploring Impact with the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS)

The NILS Impact Event successfully took place on Thursday 15th October at McAuley House.

All speaker presentations have been compiled in one handy powerpoint document here.

For an overview of the event and the agenda see click here.

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We are very pleased to announce the new version of our data dictionary interface featuring: full variable information, advanced search options and the ability to save your own variable lists between sessions. We would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the new system so please find out more...


Latest News

  • NILS Research Showcase NILS Research Showcase  - Thursday 29th March 2018 On Thursday 29th March at Riddel Hall, ... [more]
  • QGIS Course A 1-day introductory course on ‘Mapping Population Data using QGIS’ has been organised b... [more]


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