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 downloading and data formats
Our Download and order pages provide details on how to download or order data.
When you download data via your account, you will actually download a 'ZIP' file containing your chosen study in the format selected.
If you get the message "Access Denied - Referral Block", this may be due to a particular type of firewall at your institution or on your computer. Try to download the data from another computer that does not have the same firewall installed, or temporarily deactivate the firewall after consulting your local computing support.
If Internet Explorer blocks a download with a 'no entry' sign and displays a notification in the Information Bar, click the Information Bar and select the option to allow the download. Alternatively, hold down the Control button on your keyboard when you try to download.
Most survey datasets are available to download in SPSS, Stata and tab-delimited (suitable for use in MS Excel) formats. Other UK Data Service systems, including Nesstar, provide other data formats, such as Statistica and Dbase.
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.
Data from the census are accessed via bespoke tools to 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 Census Support explore online data page for more details.
Qualitative data formats include MS Excel, MS Word and RTF.
If the 'Access denied' message appears in red text this is a known issue that happens from time to time. We are investigating but if you do experience this issue, close your web browser and then reopen it and try again. Alternatively use a different web browser as this often resolves this issue.
Access to ReShare datasets depends on the access level that the depositor has set for each file:
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:
A ZIP file allows several files to be downloaded as one file. The files are compressed so that the ZIP file is smaller than the size of the uncompressed files, resulting in a faster download.
In the 'File Download' dialog box choose to Save this file. Do NOT choose to open the file as this will only create a temporary copy on your computer.
In the 'Save As' dialog box, choose the directory/folder where you want to save your data. Make a note of the file name and click 'Save'.
Note: if a dialog box does not appear you may need to change the security settings in your browser to Medium. In Internet Explorer, you can do this using Tools, Internet Options, Security. If this does not work, contact your local computer support.
If you are using Internet Explorer on a Macintosh Operating System (OS) and a dialog box does not appear, you should try using one of the following web browsers instead: OS9, Mozilla (version 5.1.7 or higher) or OS X - Safari (OS supplied browser).
Locate the directory/folder where you saved the ZIP file. Double click the filename to uncompress/open it using decompression software such as 7Zip, iZip for Mac users, or Winzip.
Note: some older versions of WinZip do not support higher AES encryption standards, so Special Licence users may need to update to the latest version.
Extract the files to a directory/folder, opting to keep the folder names/directory structure.
Get 7zip (free open source software for Windows, check 7zip website for Linux/Unix)
Get WinZip (free to try for Windows and Mac)
Get iZip (free software for Mac)
The top level folder is usually named UKDA[study number]-[format] (e.g. UKDA4651-spss). In this top level folder there will usually be two folders, one containing the data and named according to the format (e.g. SPSS, Stata, tab, rtf), and one containing the documentation called 'mrdoc' (short for machine-readable documentation). Occasionally, there will also be a folder called 'code', which will contain command files that create derived variables or aid analysis in some way.
The 'mrdoc' folder contains a number of other folders containing the user guides supplied by the data depositor; a file containing information on how to cite and acknowledge the data in publications; a shortened version of the catalogue record; and (depending on the data format) a data dictionary generated by the UK Data Archive.
The following files may also be available:
Commonly occurring file extensions are:
If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed it can be downloaded from: Adobe Reader download
This is the most popular dissemination format. The files supplied by the UK Data Archive (the Archive) are SPSS system (.sav) format for newer studies (processed from 2005 onwards) and may be in SPSS portable (.por) format for older studies. SPSS portable and system files open in all current versions of SPSS.
Studies processed after 2004 may also have an accompanying data dictionary file generated by the UK Data Archive.
This format is increasing in popularity, and is recommended for surveys that require weighting and other survey design effects to be incorporated into any analyses. Studies are made available in standard 'intercooled' (IC) Stata format, but if one or more data files have more than 2,047 variables they are made available in Stata 'Special Edition' (SE) format. Stata version numbers are indicated in the names of the zipped download bundle i.e. [study number]stata11 (version 11), or [study number]stata9 (version 9). Where the files require Stata SE, the suffix '_se' will be added to the version number.
Stata data handling limits are generally slightly different to SPSS, so some loss or truncation of information, (such as variable and value label loss, or truncation, loss of user missing value definitions) may be experienced. The UK Data Archive takes steps to guarantee optimal translation of data between SPSS and Stata. For studies processed after April 2004, a log file detailing information that has been lost or truncated upon translation is often included in the zip file. Any missing information can then be found in the data dictionary.
This is an entirely generic format that stores just the variable names and the rectangular matrix of data (there is no information on variable formats, label information or missing value definitions). The character set is normally ASCII but may be UNICODE.
It is recommended that data are ordered in tab-delimited format where this is the most effective means of reading the data into a specialist analysis package. When data are supplied in tab-delimited format, data dictionary or database structure information will also be provided.
Although tab-delimited format is suitable for use in MS Excel, prior to Excel 2007 the maximum number of columns (variables) was 256 and the maximum number of rows (cases) was 65,536. Excel 2007 and versions beyond, support 16,384 columns (variables) and 1,048,576 rows (cases).
Due to limited demand, data are not routinely made available in SAS format by the UK Data Archive. However, SAS version 9.0 onwards will import SPSS .sav files. SAS users should download the SPSS version and load the file(s) using the SAS 'Import Data' facility. If this is not successful, please Get in touch.
An open source statistical package, R is gaining in popularity as it offers advanced functionality not present in SPSS or in some instances, even Stata. Due to limited demand, data are not routinely made available in R format by the UK Data Archive. However, depending on the version of SPSS, Stata and R used, R will read both SPSS and Stata formats (using the 'read.spss' and 'read.dta' commands).
Occasionally, quantitative data collections are not suitable for familiar statistical software packages. This occurs when, for example, unstructured or semi-structured interviews record literal textual responses of greater than 255 characters. While packages such as MS Excel and MS Access can store these long strings, statistical packages often cannot. In these cases, the data are made available in format(s) that do not truncate these long strings. This will typically be a choice of a proprietary format (e.g. MS Excel or MS Access) and tab-delimited text. MS Access 'data documenter' information is provided where possible for each table when data are extracted from an MS Access database.
Rich text format (RTF) is used for the majority of qualitative studies. Rich text format files will open into most text editors and almost all word processing packages.
Adobe PDF format is used when original data were only available to the UK Data Service as hard copy (paper). In such instances the hard copy material is usually scanned into image files (400 dpi TIFFs) and then converted into PDF format.
Where qualitative data have been coded and analysed using Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS), these files may also be supplied, in addition to the 'raw' transcripts in rich text format.
Qualitative data collections may contain audio recordings or digital images. These are generally supplied in .mp3 format (usually generated from the source .wav files during processing), though .flac versions may be made available on request. Digital image files are usually made available in JPEG (.jpg) format, though other formats may be available on request.
The UK Data Service website will be undergoing an upgrade to our systems from Thursday 23 August until Wednesday 29 August inclusive. Some parts of the current website, account area and data catalogue will be unavailable. Normal services are expected to resume on 30 August 2018. We apologise for any inconvenience.