The U•Geo Browser is made available for demonstration purposes only, and may not reflect changes and additions to the UK Data Service catalogue. The last major data update was: 30 November 2011
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Use the U•Geo Browser to explore geographic variables in national survey data held by the UK Data Archive. Designed to better enable the re-use of survey data in geospatial applications, this website presents information on the correspondence between spatial variables and digital boundary files.


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British National Grid Reference
The British National Grid is a common referencing format for all geographic data in Great Britain. The result is that any location can be described in terms of its distance from the origin (0,0), which lies to the west of the Scilly Isles. Grid references are always presented in terms of eastings (distance east from the origin) and northings (distance north from the origin).

Type: Point
Synonyms: Ordnance Survey National Grid; National Grid
Country: England; Wales; Scotland
Established: 1936
Coding system: OSGB36
Responsible authority: Ordnance Survey
Definition source: ONS Geography
View studies containing this unit
In the context of the UK, each of the 4 main subdivisions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is referred to as a country.

Type: Administrative
Country: England; Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Number: 249
Coding system: ISO 3166-1
Responsible authority: ISO
Definition source: ONS Geography
View studies containing this unit
Counties were formerly administrative units across the whole UK. Due to various administrative restructurings however then the only administrative areas still referred to as counties are the non-metropolitan (shire) counties of England.

Type: Administrative
Synonyms: County (non-metropolitan); County (Shire)
Country: England
Established: 1974
Number: 27
Coding system: GSS prefix: E10
Responsible authority: Unknown
Definition source: ONS Geography
View studies containing this unit
District (Scotland)
Districts formed the lower level of Scottish administrative geography, in a two-tier system of regional and district councils.

Type: Administrative
Country: Scotland
Established: Unknown
Abolished: 1994
Number: 53
Definition source: UK Data Archive
View studies containing this unit
District Health Authority
District Health Authorities (DHAs) were the lower tier of NHS administration in England between 1982 and 1996, when they were replaced by Health Authorities (HAs).

Type: Health
Country: England
Established: 1982
Abolished: 1996
Definition source: ONS Geography
Government Office Region
Government Office Regions were formerly the highest level administrative geography in England, but were abolished in an attempt to shift focus away from regions to local areas. From 1 April 2011, the areas covered by the GORs will be used for statistical purposes only, and referred to as 'Regions'.

Type: Administrative
Synonyms: GOR; Region
Country: England
Established: Unknown
Abolished: 2011
Number: 9
Coding system: GSS prefix: E12
Responsible authority: Local Government Boundary Commission for England
Definition source: ONS Geography
Health Authority Region
Health Authorities (HAs) were the intermediate level of health administration in England prior to the NHS restructuring in April 2002. There were 95 HAs at the time of abolition, reporting to the eight NHS Regional Offices. They generally covered groups of one or more complete local authorities, but there were cases where local authorities were split. In addition there were five HAs in Wales, reporting to the National Assembly. The HAs were built from groups of unitary authorities, each of which had its own Local Health Group (LHG). These HAs and LHGs were abolished when the Welsh NHS was restructured in April 2003.

Type: Health
Synonyms: HA
Country: England; Wales
Established: 1999
Abolished: 2003
Number: 95
Responsible authority: NHS; Welsh National Assembly
Definition source: ONS Geography
View studies containing this unit
Local Authority District
A superclass for areas that have local authorities: metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts, unitary authorities and London boroughs in England and Wales; Council Areas in Scotland; and District Council Areas in Northern Ireland

Type: Administrative
Synonyms: Local Authority; LAD; UALAD; Unitary Authority; London Borough; Metropolitan district; Non-metropolitan district
Country: England; Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Coding system: GSS prefixes: UA, NMD, MD, LONB
Responsible authority: Various
Definition source: ONS Geography
Lower Layer Super Output Area
Aggregated Output Areas

Type: Statistical
Synonyms: LSOA
Country: England
Established: 2001
Number: 32482
Coding system: GSS prefixes: E01; W01; S01
Responsible authority: Office for National Statistics
Definition source: ONS Geography
View studies containing this unit
NHS Acute Trust
Part of NHS administration

Type: Health
Country: England
Established: Unknown
Number: 170
Responsible authority: NHS
Definition source: N/A
View studies containing this unit
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What is the U•Geo Browser?

The U•Geo Browser is a bespoke resource discovery tool for searching and browsing georeferenced survey data held by the UK Data Archive.

The Browser provides detailed information on which spatial variables are present in each data collection and which digital boundary files correspond to those spatial variables, to better enable the use of this data in geospatial applications. Boundary files are usually available from EDINA’s UKBorders service.

The Browser also provides information on the quality, standardisation and time referencing of spatial units. The detailed information validates, clarifies and augments the metadata currently presented through the UK Data Service data catalogue, and is intended to be used alongside this.

How does it work?

The Browser is organised around two fundamental entities: studies and spatial units. Studies are data collections held within the UK Data Service collection, usually from major national surveys. Spatial units are discrete divisions of space used to geo-reference data, e.g. electoral ward or county.

With the Study View and Unit View tabs you can switch between browsing studies and browsing spatial units. Studies contain variables that are coded as geographic identifiers, using a particular spatial unit. This relationship is reflected in embedded links between the Study and Unit Views. The Unit View functions similarly to a dictionary, giving a detailed definition of any particular spatial unit.

The search box can be used to query for a particular term.

The filters on the right of the page can be used to browse and refine results thematically, by selecting relevant criteria.

Access conditions for data collections

Data files are either available via:
  • Standard Access: Requires users to register with UK Data Service, provide details of intended use and agree to an End User Licence before data files can be downloaded. The End User Licence specifies the terms and conditions of data use.
  • Special Licence: For data containing more detailed spatial units, special use conditions may exist, with users required to apply via UK Data Service for ONS Approved Researcher status or a Special Licence required by the data owner; or other access conditions may be specified. Details of the use conditions are found in the UK Data Service catalogue record.
  • Secure Data Service: detailed confidential or sensitive data are made available via the Secure Data Service that facilitates remote analysis without download.

Further information on access conditions is available:

Why can’t I find the dataset I'm looking for?

In its current form the U•Geo Browser is a demonstration tool that contains metadata on a subset of the UK Data Service data collections (major national survey data).

Any feedback on your experience with the Browser is very much appreciated, and should be addressed to: tensom at

Example search

A researcher is studying the geography of happiness across different regions and localities in the UK. She would like to use various social parameters of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), and wants to find out which spatial variables she can use to geo-reference the dataset. As she is particularly interested in patterns over time, she needs to know this for all waves (i.e. years) of the survey. She is keen to use a unit that is appropriate for statistical analysis, but also realises that license restrictions may limit her access to certain variables. Finally, she wants to find an appropriate UK-wide shapefile for her chosen spatial unit that she can map the data onto and create some nice visualisations to impress project stakeholders.

Using the U•Geo Browser she finds that three spatial units are available for the BHPS via Conditional Access (she can access one such spatial unit after agreeing to click-through use conditions): Local Authority Districts, Parliamentary Constituencies. These spatial units are available for all waves from 1991 until 2009. The Browser also shows her that UKBorders has the following shapefiles for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: Local Authority District boundaries for 2001 only; Parliamentary Constituency boundaries for 1991, 1997 and 2001.

Alternatively, she could seek approval for access to the BHPS data containing British National Grid postcode grid references via the Secure Data Service.