Help - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions are provided here.

If you are unable to find an answer to your question, please get in touch by selecting one of the short web forms.

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Find and Access

Questions about how to find and access data

How do I find a particular dataset?

How do I find studies on a particular subject?

How can I search for variables or survey questions?

Who can access the data?

Who can access census data?

Who can access the Secure Lab?

How do I access the data?

What formats are the data available in?

How do I download/order data?

How much will it cost?

Can I check the contents of a dataset before I obtain it?

Can I obtain data from other archives?

What is international macrodata?

How do I download data from your ReShare repository?

How do I request access when receiving the message "You don't have permission to access...."?

When I try to download a data file from ReShare, I am sent to the UK Data Service registration page, although I have already registered, what do I do?

How do I find a particular dataset?

Datasets can be found in Discover by using its facets/filters, and by entering specific information such as the study title, in the search box. 

How do I find studies on a particular subject?

Each dataset in Discover is assigned one or more subject categories to reflect the overall subject area of the data at study level. The 'subject' facet can be used to browse our studies by broad subject area, e.g. education

How can I search for variables or survey questions?

Individual variables and questions can be found using the Variable and Question Bank. Coverage extends across most of the recent, major UK surveys and longitudinal studies but users should note that not all studies in the Discover data catalogue have had their variables added to this search. To check whether the survey you are interested in is covered, open up the 'Survey' filter and click 'Show more'.

Who can access the data?

Researchers, students and teachers from any discipline, organisation or country may register with the UK Data Service and obtain data. However, some datasets have restrictions on access due to the data redistribution licence agreements we have with our data providers. Commercial use of data may also be restricted and further details are available from our Commercial users page. Details of the access conditions that apply are available in the individual records within Discover.

Further information on how to obtain data is available from How to access.

Who can access census data?

Census aggregate data and census flow data are available to anyone under the Open Government Licence. Only registered users are able to access some of the data found within Census Support, such as boundary data. Census microdata has different access conditions depending on the dataset.

Who can use the Secure Lab?

Access to the Secure Lab is available to researchers who can fulfil the access requirements for the data required:

  • For ONS data: researchers must be an ONS Accredited Researcher, and the forms required to apply for this status will be made available during the application process. Further details are available from: ONS Approved Researcher Scheme.
  • For non-government data: researchers must be based at a UK academic institution or an ESRC-funded research centre, and be an ESRC Accredited Researcher. PhD and research students can request access but will need to apply jointly with their supervisors.

Note: Civil servants should continue to use the ONS Virtual Microdata Laboratory.

Please Get in touch if you have any queries about whether you are eligible to apply for access.

How do I access the data?

Access to the data requires registration with the UK Data Service. We use federated access management (shibboleth) user authentication, and you will need a username and password to register. Further details are provided in How to access, Registration and the Login and Registration FAQs.

Note: Registration is not required for access to the 'Open' datasets we have available.

What formats are the data available in?

Most survey datasets are available to download in SPSS, Stata and tab-delimited (suitable for use in MS Excel) formats. Other UK Data Service systems, including Nesstar, provide other data formats, such as Statistica and Dbase.

Our international macrodata are available online via UKDS.Stat or the IMF eLibrary. Data/tables can be downloaded in MS Excel and comma-separated formats.

Data from the census are accessed via bespoke tools to produce extracts online which can then be read into a spreadsheet or mapping package using boundary data in a variety of formats. Take a look at Census Support explore online data page for more details.

Qualitative data formats include MS Excel, MS Word and RTF.

Further information about the data formats we provide is available at Download and data formats FAQ.

How do I download/order data?

Once you have registered with the UK Data Service you will have your own account which you can access by using the 'Login' link on each web page. Further information on the download process is available from our Download and order pages. 

How much will it cost?

Data required for non-commercial purposes can be downloaded at no cost. If data are  requested on portable media, e.g. CD, handling and postage and packing fees will apply. See Charges for further details.

Can I check the contents of a dataset before I obtain it?

Discover contains a full study description for each dataset and also provides access to online documentation and variable lists. Online documentation includes user guides that contain information on how to use the data, how the data were collected, and usually the original questionnaires or topic guides. Online variable lists provide the variable names and variable and value labels.

Nesstar provides details for all the variables within datasets available via the Nesstar system, displaying the full question text, frequency counts and other summary statistics.

Access to Discover and Nesstar does not require registration, however registration is required to conduct online data analysis or to download data.

Can I obtain data from other archives?

Support is available to help users locate and acquire data from other archives within Europe and worldwide. For example, we can obtain data from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in the USA (for UK users), and from archives which are members of the Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA).

Data for several key international series can be found within Discover. Users can also search for data at individual archives via the clickable maps at Data archives. The CESSDA catalogue can also be used to locate data and variables within a selection of datasets held by a number of European social science data archives.

UK users can request data located at other archives through their UK Data Service account - see Order data from a non-UK archive for details.

What is international macrodata?

Macrodata are data aggregated to a country or regional level. The international macro datasets in the UK Data Service contain socio-economic time series data for a range of countries over a substantial time period. Further details are available from international macrodata.

How do I download data from your ReShare repository?

Access to ReShare datasets depends on the access level that the depositor has set for each file:

  • open data are accessible to any user without registration
  • safeguarded data are accessible only to users registered with the UK Data Service; you will automatically be directed to the login / registration page when downloading such file
  • closed access data requires specific authorisation from the data owner (depositor) to release the data to a user; follow these steps to request access:
    1. email the contact person for the data collection to get written permission, explaining how you want to use the data collection
    2. register with the UK Data Service
    3. submit your access request via the UK Data Service helpdesk, including the data collection number
    4. after we contact you please forward the permission email/letter to us
    5. we will send you the data files using the Essex ZendTo service

How do I request access when receiving the message "You don't have permission to access...."?

These data are held in our ReShare repository and require permission from the data owner before we can release them. Follow these steps to request access:

  1. email the contact person for the data collection to get written permission, explaining how you want to use the data collection
  2. register with the UK Data Service
  3. submit your access request via the UK Data Service helpdesk, including the data collection number
  4. after we contact you please forward the permission email/letter to us
  5. we will send you the data files using the Essex ZendTo service

When I try to download a data file from ReShare, I am sent to the UK Data Service registration page, although I have already registered, what do I do? 

Please close your browser (all tabs), clear your history and cache. Then try to login again. Else, try to use a different browser.

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