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Regional Report 1995-1996: Europe

Report of the European Regional Secretary

by
Bridget Winstanley
The Data Archive
University of Essex, UK
May 1996

Introduction
The year has been a very busy and prosperous one for European data and technology initiatives. Some of these are described below. I apologise if the balance information seems to be largely with Ireland, Israel, and the United Kingdom. My appeal over the IASSIST listserv for information from non-UK countries was answered only by Ken Hannigan on behalf of Ireland and Michal Peleg for Israel. Please keep me informed of developments that you know about in other European areas and I will attempt to give them publicity in future versions of this annual report.
Country reports
Cross-national
The Danish Data Archive, the Norwegian Social Science Data Service and the Data Archive at the University of Essex, UK, have benefitted from funding from the Commission of the European Communities under the Information Engineering Section of the Telematics Programme to develop internet services of value to the European data archives and their users. This project will be known as the NESSTAR (Networked Social Science Tools and Resources) project.
The CESSDA (Council for European Social Science Data Archives) held a successful Expert Seminar at the University of Essex in November. As a result of this and earlier meetings great progress has been made in the integration of European data archives' catalogues and and the provision of easily navigated Web pages.
Ireland
I am grateful to Ken Hannigan for the following information.
A Social Science Research Council has been established, one of whose priorites is the development of data archives. In December, the Council held a very successful joint forum with the Royal Irish Academy and the National Archives of Ireland on the subject of data archives, electronic records and freedom of information. It attracted almost one hundred participants from a wide spectrum of interests including archives, libraries and the social sciences. The proceedings will shortly be available.
Mark Conrad of the US National Archives has spent the current academic year as a Fulbright scholar in the Archives Department at University College, Dublin. Mark has also been teaching a course leading to a Diploma in Archival Studies as well as teaching an in-service course on electronic records for working archivists. He has been involved in a wide variety of further activities which have brought forward the issue of electronic records on several agendas.
Finally, Ken writes: In the course of a debate in the upper house of the Irish Parliament on the tabling of the first four report os the National Archives Advisory Council ├┤several senators made reference to the urgent need for action on electronic records. This was the first occasion on which electronic archive have been mentioned in Parliament. A small step for man, but in terms of consciousness-raising in these parts, it might be seen as a giant leap for mankind.
Israel
Michal Peleg has sent in the following report:
GEOBASE: Supported by the National Planning Authority in the Ministry of Interior Affairs,the Archive has recently developed and now runs a multi-dimensional database of Israel regional statistics (geobase). GEOBASE is managed as Data Warehouse, the contents of which is extracted from various sources: from the Central Bureau of Statistics, from local authorities databases, from public services firms and summaries derived from individual level datasets.
Geobase now contains some 900 data series of population, labor force, incomes, transportation, construction, tourism, schools and economic activities- each series refers to all units in one or more geographic levels.
Future plans include further geographic granularity, software conversion to an INTERNET interactive database and incorporation of a GIS component for data presentation (something like the new CIESIN ddviewer).
Data Distribution License: For more than a year, the Archive is an authorized distributor of microdatafrom the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, both to the academic and to other sectors. This license has considerably improved the Archive s public position as well as its budgetary basis. Speaking about the Bureau of Statistics, the Archive is negotiating now, on behalf of the academic users, on the dissemination of the 1995 census microdata and its format. However, the raising public sensibility regarding confidentiality issues means that we are going to receive further grouping of variables for larger geographic units, compared with the 1983 (the previous) census microdata.
WWW home page: The SSDA homepage includes, besides general information, also news about recent holdings, data request forms and a TELNET interface for searching the online catalog.
UK
Five New National Data Centres
The Joint Information Services Committee (JISC) of the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales and Scotland have provided funding during the year for a number of initiatives of interest to IASSIST members. These include the designation and funding of five national data centres:
  • The University of Bath ( providers of the BIDS bibliographic citation services, etc.)
  • The University of Edinburgh (the Data Library, host to a variety of data services )
  • The University of Essex (the Data Archive)
  • The University of Manchester (host to the CURL bibliographic databases and the MIDAS service)
  • King's College London, host the the Executive of the new Arts and Humanities Data Service.
The Arts and Humanities Data Service
The Arts and Humanities Data Service has designated three centres so far under its umbrella. These are:
  • The History Data Service at the Data Archive, University of Essex
  • The Oxford Text Archive
  • The Archaeology Data Service at the University of York.
ESRC Data Programmes
The Economic and Social Research Council has continued to support a large number of initiatives and programmes of value to our community. These include:
  • ALCD (Analysis of Large and Complex Datasets) for which a call for bids for the second phase has just gone out
  • SOSIG, the Social Sciences Information Gateway
News from the Data Archive
In addition to the programmes and inititiative described above, the Data Archive at the University of Essex has received the following specific project funding from JISC:
  • to carry out a programme of digitisation of paper documentation and to upgrade the Archive's preservation systems.
  • to improve access to the Archive's considerable collection of opinion polls. The funding will allow the Archive to fill in gaps in the collection, undertake data processing and re-structuring, key in the full texts of questionnaires, provide indexing and information retrieval linked to BIRON and to design a data access system.
  • to explore the data needs of psychologists. The project is a joint one with the Department of Psychology at Cardiff and the Centre for Teaching Initiatives in Psychology in York. The project arose because of a concern that although the Archive covers social science data the holdings are of limited interest to experimental psychologists. However the extension of this area is not straightforward and the project will be mainly exploratory.
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