UK Data Service

The UK Data Service is a national data service that provides research access to a range of social and economic data collections including UK census data and government funded surveys as well as qualitative and business data.[1]

UK Data Service
FormationOctober 2012 (consolidating previous services)
TypeGovernment-funded research infrastructure
PurposeAdvancing social science research and teaching through access to data, documentation, guidance and support
HeadquartersUniversity of Essex, Colchester
Region served
UK and abroad
Prof Matthew Woollard
AffiliationsESRC, UK Data Archive

It was established in October 2012 with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).[2] The service incorporates several previous services also established by the ESRC, including the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), Secure Data Service, and elements of the Census Programme including[3]

In October 2013, the UK Data Service received additional funding to coordinate the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN), designed to streamline research access to data routinely collected by UK government departments and other agencies.[4][5] The ADRN was phase one of the ESRC Big Data Network. [6]
UK Data Service is listed in the Registry of Research Data Repositories[7]

Data access

The UK Data Service is commissioned to provide data access and support for researchers from all sectors including higher education, central and local government, foundations, charities and business. There are currently more than 6,000 datasets available from a variety of sources.[8] Key data types include:[9]

Access to the data catalogue, documentation and guides are available free of charge. Registration may be required to download data, and its use subject to licensing requirements specified by data owners. Most data are available under a standard End User Licence, but data are available along a spectrum ranging from 'open' to 'secure'.[10] The latter requires specific approval and training to ensure the appropriate level of security for highly detailed and sensitive data.[11]

Digital preservation and archiving

The UK Data Service follows a policy of active preservation to ensure the authenticity, reliability and logical integrity of all digital resources while providing usable versions for research, teaching or learning, in perpetuity.[12]

The UK Data Service is based around a functional model, which in turn is based on the Open Archival Information System or OAIS (an ISO standard). This means that the UK Data Service works with standards for archiving digital materials to build trust relationships: researchers must trust that archivists are giving them the ‘right’ data, and data owners and producers must trust that the archivists are not damaging the integrity of their data.[13]

The UK Data Service adheres to the UK Data Archive Preservation Policy, which codifies long-standing archival practice standards. This policy conforms to the OAIS reference model, with additions and alterations specific to the materials held within the UK Data Service collection. The policy holds strict requirements for digital preservation activities, together with how these requirements can best be achieved in keeping with regulatory requirements, archival best practice, information security and funding constraints.

Data sharing and reuse

The UK Data Service encourages data sharing and reuse as a means to extend the inherent value in primary data for replicating research results as well as for additional analysis and teaching use.[14] To this end, it supports the ESRC's Research Data Policy, which requires researchers funded by the research council to commit to a structured data management plan to enable data produced in the course of research to be deposited and archived for future sharing and reuse.[15] To support researchers in developing robust data management plans, the UK Data Service makes a toolkit of resources available in formats designed for researchers as well as those responsible for teaching data management skills.

Structure and governance

The UK Data Service is based at the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex and delivered by host organizations at universities across the UK: Jisc and the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research at the University of Manchester; School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton, EDINA, at the University of Edinburgh, and two departments at University College London: Department of Information Studies and Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis.[16]

The governance structure is managed by the ESRC [17]


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