Here at the UK Data Service we curate and provide trusted access to the UK’s largest collection of economic, social and population data for research and teaching. Enabling long-term access to high quality data means that researchers can generate new insights at pace, to inform evidence-based policy making and drive positive change for individuals and communities at local, national and international levels.
This year’s theme for #LoveDataWeek is ‘Data is for everyone’, which strongly resonates with the philosophy that drives our Service strategy and practice. Here are just some of the ways we enable diverse users to access and make sense of data in the UK Data Service collection:
We provide access to many open datasets, meaning that you don’t need to be registered to access them. For instance, you can browse and download a wealth of UK census data and international microdata to tackle all manner of research questions, from how households were organised in the 1970s to how we can tackle the current climate crisis and achieve net zero.
We also have a range of open teaching datasets available to support social science learning. These datasets have been specifically designed around key themes to make them more accessible to less specialised users in the classroom.
During the pandemic, our training programme has grown and broadened its reach through moving online. Attendance has doubled in this time, and we now have 7,000 people a year attending sessions.
Our learning hub hosts a wide variety of data skills training and resources, including video tutorials, guides and Data skills modules, whilst through our YouTube channel we deliver webinars and workshops to support users in finding, accessing and analysing data through the Service.
Our #ChangingPerceptionsChallenge is an exciting competition open to sixth form and college students in the UK. It aims to get fresh young minds engaging with data-driven research to explore differences between public perceptions of the economic impact of immigration and what the evidence shows.
Our online #DataImpact2021 event was centred around representation and inclusivity in data. Participants explored discourses of self and identity in data, the inclusivity of data for different populations, communities and individuals, and the various ways in which data methodologies are developing to positively impact data subjects.
Added into the mix is the wealth of expertise held by teams and individuals across the Service, which is central to our value-added Service delivery. Since this blog was launched in January 2015, staff from across the Service have regularly blogged about their work, sharing best practice, thought pieces on the data landscape, and key Service developments.
Did you know, for instance, that we’re a member of the International Data Access Network (IDAN) and a partner in the Social Sciences & Humanities Open Cloud (SSHOC) project, and are currently working to provide European access to some of our controlled datasets for the first time?
Or that back in 2019, we developed the QAMyData tool, which automatically runs a ‘data health check’, assisting with data cleaning and providing assurance that data is of a high quality; and in 2017, a Data Quiz app to increase engagement with data.
We’re also long term partners of the Statistical Information System Collaboration Community (SIS-CC), and have played a key role in enhancing development of our international data platform, which is currently being upgraded to the latest SDMX-native version by our Aggregate Data Unit.
We have Twitter data experts in our Computational Social Science team, who are currently driving debate on the thorny issue of Twitter scraping and ethics, and a whole team of census data experts who routinely blog for us on topics that range from our pioneering ‘statistical archaeology’ 1961 Census digitisation project back in 2017 to our current Census 2021/22 series that negotiates flow data, census geographies, and in the coming months the implications of changes to what and how data is being collected.
We’re also keen advocates for data citation and at the forefront of using persistent identifiers for locating datasets and enabling correct citation of data in our collection – you can find out more in our #CiteTheData blogs.
Our new Spotlight On… series builds on these posts, carving out a space online to showcase and celebrate Service expertise and the impact it is having on researchers, teachers, students, policy, and beyond. The series is going to be running in tandem with the newly launched Experts’ Expert podcast, which brings you interviews and top tips from data experts across the Service.
We’re looking forward to sharing details of the projects, processes, and key developments on the data horizon that we’re involved in, so make sure you tune in and follow along with Spotlight On…!
Dr Emma Zimmerman is Impact Manager for the UK Data Service.