New national digital repository for social and economic data

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is set to launch a collection of social and economic data through an investment of £17 million over the next five years.

The UK Data Service will be launched in October this year and will provide a unified point of access to an extensive range of high quality data, and is a vital step forward in the Council’s strategy to maximise the impact of investment in research.

Please see below for the Press Release, which is also available on the ESRC website:

Continuing access to the UK’s most valuable collection of social and economic data has been secured with a £17 million investment over five years for the UK Data Service. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the new service which will start on the 1st October 2012 is structured to support researchers in academia, business, third sector and all levels of government.

The new service will provide a unified point of access to the extensive range of high quality economic and social data, including valuable census data. It is designed to provide seamless access and support to meet the current and future research demands of both academic and non-academic users, and to help them maximise the impact of their work. 

The UK Data Service will:

  • Act as a trusted national digital repository for a wide range of data providers and users
  • Provide a single point of access and support to a broad range of high-quality economic and social research data
  • Provide controlled access to sensitive and/or disclosive data through secure settings
  • Raise the awareness of the data held by the UK Data Service amongst those who are not yet using the service, especially among those in business, third sector and at all levels of government
  • Extend use of its data holdings to the widest possible academic, policy and practitioner communities for generating greater impact
  • Develop and promote common standards and agreed strategies for data preparation, processing, documentation and preservation to promote data sharing and re-use 
  • Help the  social science community to develop the skills necessary to use the data available
  • Work with a wide range of stakeholders in the UK and overseas, including data suppliers, data funders and users, institutional repositories and Doctoral Training Centres

“The UK Data Service represents a significant step forward in our strategy,” says ESRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle. “As data are the lifeblood of research, our aim is to consolidate resources in a way that expands both the reach and impact of these vital investments. It will become a cornerstone for UK research; the place to go for high quality data and support.”

The UK Data Service will be created from the integration of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Census Programme, the Secure Data Service and other elements of the data service infrastructure currently provided by the ESRC. The integration follows an economic evaluation of ESDS, which reveals that for every pound currently invested in data and infrastructure, the service returns £5.40 in net economic value to users and other stakeholders. This compares favourably with the return on investment previously demonstrated for the British Library and for UK academic libraries in general.

“Between our services we have an impressive collection of rich research data,” says Dr Matthew Woollard, Director of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) and the UK Data Archive. “We are dedicated to the re-use, sharing and archiving of data because we know the effect it can have on the wider society. Together, we look forward to becoming the UK Data Service so we can continue to build on these excellent data and services to generate even more impact.”

Leadership from four UK universities

The UK Data Service will be a distributed service led by Dr Matthew Woollard (University of Essex) in collaboration with deputy directors Keith Cole (University of Manchester), Professor David Martin (University of Southampton) and Professor James Nazroo (University of Manchester). It will incorporate the new Census Support Service led by Professor John Stillwell (University of Leeds). All of the host organisations are making a significant contribution to running the new service.

The ESRC is now establishing a UK Data Service Governing Board that will have the responsibility and authority to ensure that the service is developed, managed and maintained in a manner that maximises its benefit as a long-term world class data resource. The Governing Board will be chaired by Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of Leverhulme Trust. 

Further Census support

The ESRC is also establishing Research Support Units for the England and Wales (University College London), Scotland (University of St Andrews) and Northern Ireland (Queen’s University Belfast) Census Longitudinal Studies to provide expert support to research users of the Census Longitudinal Studies and to promote the studies within the academic, policy, and practitioner communities. The UK Census Longitudinal Study Development Hub (University of St Andrews) will co-ordinate the common functions of the units and improve harmonisation across the Census Longitudinal Studies. The Hub and Units will also seek to promote a UK-wide Longitudinal Study, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The Hub and Units will start on 1 August 2012 and will be closely affiliated with the newly established UK Data Service.