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The UK's largest collection of digital research data in the social sciences and humanities

Research infrastructure

We play a key role in building and strengthening the UK's research infrastructure. We are the lead organisation in the ESRC's flagship data service, the UK Data Service, promoting discovery of, access to and support for social science data.

We aim to be responsive to users' demands and trends, and to provide access to new and novel forms of data as they emerge. We also monitor changes in the data landscape, and make sure data remains available when projects come to an end. 

We were a major contributor when the network of European Social Science Data Archives was formed in the 1970s, and have been instrumental in helping it expand and grow. In June 2017, it become a legal Consortium of European Service Providers to deliver large-scale infrastructure. We lead in three areas of planning and service delivery and contribute to many of the core deliverables.

Future proofing 

Users need access to new and novel forms of data, and we are adapting to the transition from 'whole study' data and metadata to more granular 'data products', such as microdata variables. These granular data products allow us to provide rich opportunities for research. Commercial providers of 'big data’ technologies have the hardware and software for large-scale data manipulation, but we have the policy and governance mechanisms to deal with more sensitive research data.

We are developing the technical capacity - through the Smart Energy Research Lab and our Data Service as a Platform - to allow researchers to link datasets from outside social science with those held in the Archive.

We look forward to accessing new funding opportunities from the UKRI Industrial Challenge Fund, especially around the energy sector and healthcare. One of UKRI's main aims is to support more multi-disciplinary research, and we see great possibilities in combining social science data with biomedical, household energy research, central and local government administrative data assets, and in using AI to index and rapidly locate data.