Access Understanding Society data

Understanding Society data are available through the UK Data Service. Our data are available to researchers who can demonstrate that their work is in the public interest. Our data are used by universities, government departments, charities, think tanks and commercial companies.

Understanding Society data are stored with the UK Data Service. Researchers who would like to use Understanding Society need to register with the UK Data Service before being allowed to download the dataset. There are different levels of access, depending on what information you want to use.

All Understanding Society datasets, available at different levels of access are listed here: 

The terms and conditions of different levels of access are available here: 

If you use Understanding Society data you must acknowledge this. Information on how to correctly cite Understanding Society is here.

You can read the full Understanding Society Data Access Strategy here.

End User Licence

Datasets which fall under this category exclude information that could be disclosive, such as day and month of birth, detailed country of birth, etc. This type of dataset should suitable for the majority of researchers. To access it, researchers need to register with the UK Data Service and provide details of their research project. After that they will need to accept the UK Data Service End User Licence conditions of access online. Once this is completed researchers have immediate access to these data. 

The Understanding Society datasets that can be access via the End User Licence are: 


Special Licence data

A number of sensitive data are released under Special Licence. Researchers can apply for access to Special Licence data through the UK Data Service if they can justify their research objectives and clearly explain why Special Licence data are needed for their project.

Secure Access data

Some data can be only accessed by approved researchers in secure settings. To use Secure Access data researchers must be based at a UK academic institution or an ESRC-funded research centre, and be an ESRC Accredited Researcher.

Two Understanding Society datasets fall into this category: SN 6676 which includes postcode grid references and full date of birth and SN 7642 which contains information about children's education obtained linkage to official school records.

Commercial use

Commercial organisations can apply for access to Understanding Society data and are subject to the standard access procedures. For some data the terms of consent may prohibit commercial access. Commercial organisations are required to demonstrate the public benefits that are likely from the research use.

What format is the data in?

Understanding Society data consists of multiple files in SPSS, Stata and ASCII formats. Data for different Waves are released in separate files.

The Understanding Society dataset is large and complicated - if you are new to using Understanding Society you may benefit from a training course to help you make the best use of the dataset. For specific queries on using Understanding Society, please contact our User Support Forum.