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How to access open data from UK Data Service

"Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The goals of the open data movement are similar to those of other "open" movements such as open sourceopen hardwareopen content and open access."[1]

There are many advantages to using open data but the real value in using open data is that:

  • it is free to download and use
  • it can be used by open source software
  • it can be used to generate funds/make profit without licensing costs.

The UK Data Service holds types of data such as major UK government-sponsored surveys, cross-national surveys, longitudinal studies, UK census data, international aggregate, business data, qualitative data and, for our purposes, open data.  This guide will show you how to sign up to the UK Data Service and find open data to download and analyse.

Things you'll need

  • a computer
  • an internet connection
  • an email account

Go to the UK Data Service website

Visit UK Data Service.


Apply for a UK Data Service username

To apply for a username you need to register your details with the service by doing the following:

  1. Click 'Register / Login' from the top-right, underneath 'News and events'
  2. Click 'Registration' in the 'New users section'
  3. Select the 'Other UK users' option and then click 'UK Data Archive username and password' in the second paragraph
  4. Enter your details as requested by the form
  5. Agree to the terms and conditions

Once you have applied for a username, you will be sent through two separate e-mails, one with a username and the other with your password.  These emails usually takes 2-3 working days to receive.  If you have not received anything after this time then please check your spam or junk folder in your email account as it can sometimes end up there.  You will also receive a third and final email that asks to complete the registration process by following a link.


Log in with your username and password

Log into the service by doing the following:

  1. Click 'Register / Login' from the top-right, underneath 'News and events'
    • On some pages, the 'Login' button will be in a black and pink box rather than being a purple hyperlink
  2. Select 'Login to the UK Data Service' in the 'Existing users' section
  3. When prompted, choose 'UK Data Archive' as your login organisation
    • It is a blue hyperlink above the 'select organisation' box
    • Click the hyperlink NOT 'remove x'
  4. Enter your username and password as emailed to you in the previous process

Find open data

On every page there is a search box that says "DISCOVER UK DATA SERVICE".  This is where you will search for data.  To find open data, do the following:

  1. Enter your search terms in the 'discover' box
    • You can start by searching for something like 'local authority'
  2. Select 'GO'
  3. Navigate to the menu bar down the left-hand side of the search results
  4. Select the '+' sign next to 'Access' and select 'Open'
  5. Click 'Refine' underneath the options in 'Access'

You can also click 'GO' to use this new filter


Download open data

  1. Select the dataset you want to use from the search results
  2. Click 'Download'
  3. Select the type of file you would like to download

There are quite a few different file types that are available on the site.  Some popular ones include ‘CSV’, ‘XLSX’, ‘TAB’ and ‘SAV’.  Please be aware that some file types can only be opened by specific pieces of software, and some can be opened in specific ways.  For example, ‘SAV’ files need to be opened by SPSS, and ‘TAB’ files can be opened by Excel.  Be careful to look for ‘All Files’ if opening unconventional file types through Excel, such as ‘TAB’, as it will default to showing you commonly used ones instead.

Further information

 You can read a case study of collecting and analysing open data here.


Page last edited May 24, 2017 History

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