About the UK Soil Observatory (UKSO)

The UKSO is not currently advertising for vacancies. We have been made aware that vacancies are being fraudulently advertised for UKSO and have reported this to the police. Anyone who has been affected by this should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/. Please quote reference number NFRC170902005576.

What is the UKSO?

The UKSO is an online archive of UK soils data from nine research bodies. It provides easy access to fully described datasets allowing everyone to work with the latest UK soil research outputs.

Knowledge of soil types and properties underpins good soil-management practices allowing us to develop vital strategies for sustainable agricultural production, UK's carbon balance and a wide range of other services e.g. flood prevention.

What can we do with the UKSO?

The UKSO map viewer can be used by anyone to explore what we already know about UK soils. A large quantity of soil datasets (mostly as maps) are available, including soil type and a wide range of physical, chemical and biological properties. Each partner organisation has contributed data covering a mix of these topics. Users can also view the data within their own mapping software or apps. UKSO also acts an archive of soil-related resources and information such as soil apps, publications, events and research projects.

Why has the UKSO been developed?

There is a growing need to understand our soils better and protect them for future generations. Availability and general use of spatial technology in web and mobile applications allows more soil data to be published more quickly to more users than ever before. Coupled with current trends in government data policies and UK soil research activities, the UKSO is a logical step in harmonising our data and developing new avenues for soil research. UKSO has been developed as:

  • A collaborative partnership between leading soil research institutions
  • A hub for free to view and free to use data services
  • A facility to engage with policy makers, the soil research community, environmental professionals and the public
  • A starting point for anyone with an interest in the future of UK soils

How is the UKSO funded?

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as component parts of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have funded the creation and maintenance of UKSO to enable better access to soil data for all.

The consortium partners provide data and support for UKSO as part of their wider role as publicly funded research organisations (please see the partners page).

What are the main benefits of using the UKSO?

The benefits of the UKSO are significant and wide-ranging, and include:

  • More transparency and accessibility of data in line with government data policy
  • Less time being wasted by people either repeating or not being aware of the data already available and how to get hold of it
  • New scientific understanding of the relationship both between different soil properties and those between soils and other natural resources such as water or biodiversity, using our easy to use map viewer and map export function
  • Globally greater visibility of our rich soil data holdings, which will hopefully encourage new scientific collaborations and greater investment by businesses who rely on soils, including conservation, construction, utilities, agriculture and the insurance sector
  • Access to the fundamental soil data needed in the development of new tools such as soil health indicators
  • Easy access to soil apps which enable us to tap into soil data gathered informally using a crowdsourcing approach
  • Potential for identifying key areas to help focus future soil monitoring and risk assessment
  • Better public understanding of the diversity, sensitivity, vulnerability and value of UK soils and soil research
  • Greater public involvement in building a collective understanding of soil function and variability
  • Enhanced opportunities for public and commercial exploitation of data archives to improve our sustainable use of soils
  • Reduced operational costs for data delivery for the consortium

What are the objectives of the UKSO?

Our objectivesare to:

  • Enable simple access to soil data, knowledge and expertise from across a wide range of institutions
  • Promote better understanding of our soils and environment
  • Support academia, commercial organisations and the public to use data to develop sustainable use of UK soils
  • Improve the clarity and ease-of-use of our national and regional soil data resources

How can I get involved?

Anyone can use the ‘Contribute’ options in the UKSO map viewer, to share observations about their local soils (visit our citizen science page for more details).

If you are a research centre or data holder, you can become a partner and contribute data to the platform for others to use (see details below).

If you are a soil researcher, why not ask us to link to your soil observatory platform (see details below).

If you are interested in discussing potential collaborations or database contribution please contact Patrick Bell at BGS for technical queries, or David Robinson at CEH or any of the other UKSO partners.