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.
Questions about how to find and access data
Datasets can be found in our Data Catalogue using its search box and by using/clicking on its filters/facets (Topic, Data Type, Access, Country).
When you enter terms you want to search for, such as ‘health’, or ‘energy prices’, a list with strings and keywords will appear while you are typing.
Each study has been indexed using keywords which represent concepts used in social science research. The keywords are taken from our electronic HASSET thesaurus.
Spaces between words are interpreted as AND by default.
You can also use the Boolean operators OR, or NOT for complex searches.
There is also a link to our Variable and question bank and to our Qualibank.
You can use filters/facets to narrow down your search. For example, searching for ‘energy prices’ and filtering on the topic ‘health’ reduces the list of results and displays only those studies about energy prices in the topic area ‘health’. The same goes for the other filters Date from/Date to, Data Type, Access and Country.
Each dataset in our Data Catalogue is assigned one or more topic categories to reflect the overall topic area at study and series level. The 'topic' facet can be used to browse our studies by broad subject area, e.g. education or society and culture.
You can find individual variables and questions using the Variable and Question Bank. Coverage extends across most of the recent, major UK surveys and longitudinal studies but please note: not all studies in our Data Catalogue have had their variables added to this search. To check whether the survey you are interested in is covered, go to Variable and Question Bank (link is at the bottom of the search box), open up the 'Survey' filter and click 'Show more'.
You can sort your results by choosing a sorting order: most recently published studies, relevance, alphabetical order of the titles, and reversed alphabetical order of the titles.
For further details, click on the title of a study. This brings you to the Data Catalogue record which contains very detailed information (Details tab) about the Title, Study number (SN), PID, Series, Principal investigator(s), Sponsors and contributors, Topics, Abstract, Citation and copyright, Edition history. The Data Catalogue record also contains information about the documentation, the resources and access conditions.
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 – further details are available from our Commercial users page. Details of the access conditions that apply are available in the individual records in our Data Catalogue: clicking on the title of the study/series takes you to the Data Catalogue record, then the Access tab.
You can use the filter 'Access' to get an overview of datasets that are open, safeguarded or controlled.
There is further information on how to obtain data in How to access.
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.
Access to the Secure Lab is available to researchers who can fulfil the access requirements for the data required:
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.
You need to register with the UK Data Service. We use federated access management (shibboleth) user authentication, and you will need a username and password to register.
Note: The majority of students and members of staff at UK institutions of further or higher education will be able to use the username and password issued by their institution. There are further details in How to access, Registration and the Login and Registration FAQs.
Note: you don’t need to register for access to 'Open' datasets.
The majority of our survey datasets are available to download in SPSS, Stata and tab-delimited (suitable for use in MS Excel) formats.
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.
Access to census data is via bespoke tools that 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 the Census Support explore online data page for more details.
Qualitative data formats include MS Excel, MS Word and RTF.
There is further information about the data formats we provide at Download and data formats FAQ.
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.
When you have located a study in the Data Catalogue that you require, go to the ‘Access’ tab and click ‘Add to account’ or ‘Download’. Open datasets and datasets in our ReShare repository can be downloaded directly. Other datasets must be added to your account first.
When you have all the data you require in your account, you can then add the studies to a ‘Project’. If you don’t have any projects you must create one first, providing details on your intended use of the data. Projects can be ‘Non-commercial’, ‘Commercial’ or ‘Teaching’ (if you intend to use the data in a classroom setting).
Once you have added the data to a project, click the ‘Request access’ button to view the steps required to gain access to this study. Click ‘Complete actions’ to start the application process. Use the ‘Next’ button to move through the steps.
There is further information on the download process on our Download and order pages.
The Data Catalogue record page of a study contains a section about citation and copyright where you can find the correct citation. You can copy and paste that information.
Data required for non-commercial purposes can be downloaded, or accessed, at no cost. Charges will apply if the data are to be used for a commercial purpose. See Charges for further details.
Our Data Catalogue contains a full study description (Details tab) for each dataset and also provides access to online documentation (Documentation), resources (Resources tab) and access conditions (Access tab).
The Documentation tab includes user guides 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.
The Resources tab provides links to related studies and publications.
Nesstar provides details for all the variables within the datasets available via the Nesstar system, which includes the full question text, frequency counts and other summary statistics.
Access to the Data Catalogue and Nesstar does not require registration, but you do need to register to conduct online data analysis or download data.
We can help users locate data from other archives in Europe and worldwide. We can also obtain data from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in the USA for UK users.
You can find data for several key international series in the Data Catalogue. You can also search for data at individual archives via the clickable maps at Data archives.
Note: to request data from ICPSR, make a request via your UK Data Service account, using the ‘Special request’ option available within a registered project.
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. There are further details are available from international macrodata; you can also click on the filter Data Type and choose International macrodata.
Access to ReShare datasets depends on the access level that the depositor has set for each file. The access level information can be found by clicking the '+' sign next to each file within the 'Available files' section:
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:
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