Students Staff

24 July 2012

£17 million for new national data service based at Essex

Colchester Campus

University of Essex

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is investing £17 million over five years in research data and infrastructure based at the University of Essex. The funding supports the creation of the UK Data Service, a national repository for the UK’s most valuable collection of social and economic research data.

The Service will provide researchers in academia, business, government and the third sector with a single point of access to an extensive range of high quality data, including census data.

The UK Data Service will be led by Dr Matthew Woollard at the University’s Colchester campus. It integrates 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, including the UK Data Archive. The new service will start on 1 October 2012.

The integration follows a recent economic evaluation of ESDS, which is already based at Essex. The evaluation 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). “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.”

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 among 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

The ESRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle, says: “The UK Data Service represents a significant step forward in our strategy. 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 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.

For further information, please contact:

UK Data Service:
Susan Cozzolino
Telephone 01206 872009

ESRC Press Office:
Jeanine Woolley
Telephone 01793 413119

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