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Regional Report 2001-2002: Europe

IASSIST Regional Report 2001-2002
European Region

Melanie Wright
UK Data Archive
June 2002

Introduction

Europe is a hotbed of activities of interest to the IASSIST community. In this report I only briefly sketch out some of what has been happening in the past year. I am limited by the information I receive (which in turn is limited by the tight deadline I placed on response time – my apologies for being a bit late in soliciting information).

The report that follows will begin with some observations on the demographics of IASSIST European membership. I will then report on cross-national collaborations, after which will be country-by-country reports of national/institutional/individual activities. I have only included reports for those people/organisations/countries from whom I received information.

European membership

There are currently 82 IASSIST members from 21 countries "on the books" for the European region. This increase in European membership undoubtedly reflects the fact that the last conference was held in Amsterdam. The geographic breakdown by sub-region is shown in the table below. Clearly the biggest shift in European membership in recent years has been the increased involvement of members from Eastern Europe, largely due to the effectiveness of IASSIST Outreach Committee activities. This is a success story that we hope continues.

Cross European Collaborations

Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA)

This year, the annual CESSDA Business Meeting, at which the Directors of the respective European data archives meet to discuss inter-working relationships, was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in March, hosted by the Arhiv Družboslovnih Podatkov. The meeting voted to admit two new national members to CESSDA, CEPS (Centre d'Études de Populations, de Pauvreté et de Politiques Socio-Économiques) representing Luxembourg and RODA, the Romanian Data Archive at the Institute for Quality of Life Research, Bucharest. This now takes the number of countries represented within CESSDA to twenty-one. Also discussed was the CESSDA trans-border data exchange agreement, which is in need of revision in the light of technological advances in distributed data dissemination and integrated data catalogues. It was agreed that this will be taken forward in the form of a working paper with draft recommendations. The relationship between CESSDA and the Inter-university Consortium for Social and Political Research (ICPSR) was also discussed with the new Director of ICPSR, Myron Guttman, attending CESSDA for the first time. It was agreed that CESSDA should have a full representative in ICPSR’s Council, and UKDA Director Kevin Schürer was nominated to represent CESSDA for an initial two-year period.

The East European Data Archive Network (EDAN)

The workshop "Social Science Data Archives in Eastern Europe – Results, Potentials and Prospects of the Archival Development" supported by UNESCO/MOST Programme and the German Social Science Infrastructure Services (GESIS) was held in Berlin on 22-24 February 2002. The workshop brought together representatives of the existing or emerging data archives in Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania and Slovakia as well as researchers who are involved in data archiving initiatives in Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Yugoslavia. Additionally, representatives from the Swedish, Finish, Australian and German Data Archive shared their experience.

Out of this workshop was established the East European Data Archive Network (EDAN). EDAN acts as an informal network designed to unite data archives which are at an early stage of their existence and share common problems as well as to make sure that the Eastern European data archives will catch up with the advanced western data archives. The EDAN is not intended to replace or substitute the already existing networks IFDO and CESSDA. For those archives, which were not formal members of CESSDA the EDAN serve as a good organizational framework to coordinate efforts for setting up the archive. CESSDA and IFDO offered to ask for support and it is intend to include UNESCO as sponsor in this network. The GESIS Branch Office/Central Archive as the German member of EDAN will serve as the coordinator of all activities concerning the network and the EU application. At the workshop in Berlin there was also a common understanding of the fact that the Eastern European archives need special training in metadata production in the very next future. It is envisaged to organize a training seminar on DDI in Bucharest 2002 within the framework of EDAN.

[From the website http://www.gesis.org/en/cooperation/data_service/eastern_europe/index.htm]

CDG and MMG

European IASSIST members have been very active in a number of cross-European collaborative developments. Notable among these are the activities of the CESSDA DDI working Group (CDG) (http://www.sidos.ch/CDG/) and the European metadata management group (MMG) (http://www.sidos.ch/mmg/). These two groups are working together on agreeing European implementation of the DDI standard, and a replacement for the current Integrated Data Catalogue (IDC). The CDG is focusing on agreeing common content implementation of the DDI standard across the European archives, and the MMG is seeking to share experiences of developing the underlying metadatabases and tools which underpin the implementation of the XML standard.

Informed by the work of these groups, two formal applications for funding under the EU Fifth Framework programme have been made by CESSDA-based consortia, and as of this writing have reached the budget negotiation stage: MetaDater and MADIERA.

MetaDater

The MetaDater project, coordinated by ZA, is aimed at integrating needs and experiences from all participating archives into a general metadata model that should be usable for various applications which should be able to communicate, given the common base design.

It is planned to implement two such applications, one archive oriented, the other data producer oriented. The archives need more integrated management and production instruments but also structured metadata from the start: the application for the data producer should give them the facilities to capture metadata in the first place.

Madiera

Project MADIERA (Multi-lingual Access to Data in the European Research Area) coordinated by NSD and including UKDA, DDA, FSD, Nesstar Ltd., SIDOS, EKKE, and ZA, will facilitate European comparative research by creating a common integrated interface to the data, knowledge and resources of a broad range of national centres and data archives. Breaking this vision down into more specific objectives, these are:

  • the development of an integrated and effective distributed social science portal to facilitate access to a range of data archives and disparate resources;
  • the employment of a multilingual thesaurus to break the language barriers to the discovery of key resources;
  • the development of specific add-ons to existing virtual data library technologies;
  • an extensive programme to add content, both at the data/information and knowledge levels;
  • extensive training of data providers and users to encourage the continuous growth of the infrastructure;
  • the gradual integration of the emerging national infrastructures of the candidate countries into the European Research Area.

Faster

Another Fifth Framework funded project which has come to an end in this period is FASTER (Flexible Access to Statistics, Tables, and Electronic Resources, http://www.faster-data.org/). The FASTER project built on the success of the Nesstar (http://www.nesstar.org) project, and sought to extend the Nesstar architecture to statistical (tabular) data and to develop a sophisticated access control syntax, among other things. The FASTER consortium included the UKDA, NSD, DDA, CBS (Statistics Netherlands), University of Milan, CSO (Central Statistical Office, Ireland), SSB (Statistics Norway), and CIDSP (Centre d'Informatisation des Données Socio Politiques, France). The final report by the EU review panel dated 31 March 2002 said, "The project has been well run and very successful. It has achieved all its major objectives, and has made more progress than anticipated in some areas. The exploitation plans are excellent, as is the prospect for successful exploitation. A commercial venture has already been established to exploit the products and skills developed within the consortium, drawing also on the products established in the preceding Nesstar project. The company has already had work commissioned by a number of clients, including an important contract to develop the products further, in collaboration with Statistics Canada. The project has been well managed, and, despite a number of changes of personnel at all levels, has proceeded effectively and efficiently towards its goals. The project has been well focussed in its objectives of using, exploiting and extending standards. The products are based on established Web and Internet technologies, and it has drawn on and is contributing to standardisation initiatives for statistical structures and metadata. Overall, the reviewers are impressed with the performance and quality of work from the project – it can stand as a model for many projects in this area."

Limber

(Language Independent Metadata Browsing of European Resources http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/home/limber.asp). The EU-funded LIMBER project came to a successful end in December 2001 after a three-month extension, and continuation of the goals of the project has been taken up by the MADIERA project (see above).

Nessie

The Network of European Social Science Infrastructures (NESSIE) is a programme of joint activities of the four existing EU-designated Large Scale Facilities in the Social Sciences. The Network, led by Marcia Taylor, Director of ECASS, will co-ordinate shared research on various aspects of access to socio-economic databases of various types, including regional data, economic databases such as national accounts, household panel surveys, time-use data as well as other issues of harmonisation and data transfer and management.

Mission

An EU 5th Framework project, MISSION (Multi-Agent Integration of Shared Statistical Information Over the [inter]Net), is developing software tools to assist cross-national comparative data analysis. The first of two prototypes allows comparison of homogenous data (defined as data from different sources or countries, which use the same classifications across a single period). The data currently being used in this prototype uses European data on school leavers, specifically Scottish, Irish and Dutch data. The second prototype is for application to heterogeneous or time-series data where classifications differ across time. The data currently in use in this prototype are macroeconomic data from the World Health Organisation and include data from Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Greece and Finland. Data from other countries in the series may be added at a later date.

MetaNet

(http://www.epros.ed.ac.uk/metanet/) The EU funded MetaNet group is described as 'a network of excellence for harmonising and synthesising the development of statistical metadata'. The network is considering the harmonisation of metadata, conceptually, in terms of structure and definitions, along with other aspects of metadata, including metadata for dissemination, that are relevant to statistical organisations across Europe. It is coordinated by the University of Edinburgh.

National Reports

Finland

FSD

Sami Borg writes, "Since 2001 FSD has been responsible for the yearly funding of Finnish participation in the Luxembourg Income Study and in the ISSP. The archive also co-operates closely with the national co-ordinator of the European Social Survey, which will be collected first time during next fall. At the moment, setting up the national web resource portal for social science quantitative methods is the most important development project."

The Netherlands

NIWI

Cor van der Meer and Heiko Tjalsma write "Since last year, NIWI has reorganised its structure into discipline-oriented departments. The Steinmetz archive is now part of the Social Science department and the Historical data archive (NHDA) is part of the Historical department. The NIWI strategy is to focus more on scientific research. The embedding of the archives within different disciplines should make the archives more visible in the research community and enforce closer relations with researchers and research institutes.

The Steinmetz archive as well as the NHDA are involved in a range of national and international projects, to name a few: MetaDater, ADA (Archiving Digital Academic heritage), question banks, etc.

Both archives organised last year in cooperation with the Scientific Statistical Agency the 2001 IASSIST conference in Amsterdam which was a great success.

There were some significant staff changes. Ron Dekker left NIWI in the fall of 2001 to work full time again for the Research Council and since March 2002 Peter van den Besselaar has been head of the Social Science department, whilst Peter Doorn is head of the historical department of NIWI."

Scientific Statistical Agency (WSA)

Ron Dekker writes "At the Scientific Statistical Agency (WSA) we are working on an English website and we have translated documentation of the Dutch Socio-Economic Panel into English."

Romania

Romanian Social Data Archive (RODA)

Adrian Dusa writes: "Last Friday [31 May 2002], we officially launched our data archive; after a year or so of work and a couple of delays, we finally did it. The English version of the web site is ready (http://www.roda.ro/site-en/e1_1.htm), and we're currently translating all our datasets in English."

Russia

Joint Sociological Data Archive

Larisa Kosova writes, "18 months ago Russian Centre for Public Opinion and Market Research (VCIOM) with the Ford Foundation financial support launched a project aimed at compiling a national social data archive. We managed to interest in the project leading research agencies in Russia which deposited their studies in the archive. At the moment the Joint Archive houses more then 60 surveys covering the most important social, national and political problems in Russia."

"All data files are verified and stored in the SPSS portable format. To provide searching for relevant information a retrieval system was designed. At the moment it supports two types of searching: by key words assigned to each study by its author and text searching in questionnaires (questions and/or possible answers). We keep working on the option of enabling searches using a thesaurus. The retrieval system is available on the site http://www.socialpolicy.ru. We highly encourage all interested researchers to try the opened opportunity. Welcome to the new archive!"

Switzerland

SIDOS

Reto Hadorn writes: "From the point of view of SIDOS, I see
especially the interest of mentioning the European collaborations:

  • the Cessda DDI group [CDG – see above], which makes some progress in defining a common standard for the new IDC [integrated data catalogue]
  • the metadata management group [MMG – see above] which does on the informal level of information exchange what the MetaDater project will develop in a more formal setting"

United Kingdom

UK Data Archive

It has been an extraordinarily busy year for the UK Data Archive. In July 2001 we welcomed the arrival of long-time IASSISTer Diane Geraci for a one-year secondment to head the Technical Services section in the wake of Simon Musgrave’s secondment to the newly formed Nesstar company. July also saw the publication of the final report for the JISC-funded Use of Numeric Data in Learning and Teaching project. In September 2001, we hosted a series of CESSDA workshops and meetings where critical metadata and thesaurus issues were discussed. In October 2001, the UKDA welcomed the formerly separate Qualidata unit under its official umbrella. October also saw the initiation of the 5-year Census Registration service for all UK census materials. February 2002 saw the approval of phase two funding for the geo-data browser and geo-crosswalk projects, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. In March 2002 the UK Data Archive and the Royal Statistical Society jointly published Preserving and Sharing Statistical Material, an important guide for producers of statistical information. In April 2002, the UKDA was formally contracted to assist the Medical Research Council (MRC) in its investigation of data archiving and dissemination needs for MRC-funded research. The project will result in a series of recommendations to be put to the Medical Research Council at the end of the year. And in May we received news of our successful bid "Exploiting UK survey data sources for teaching political science" under the JISC X4L programme.

Overshadowing all of this activity has been the preparation of first expressions of interest and then formal bids to the ESRC and JISC to operate the newly-constituted Data Archiving and Dissemination Service (DADS). This competitive tender was issued in the wake of the Green Paper review process, about which Martin Boddy presented a paper at the last IASSIST conference. The final decision of the tender panel will be announced in July. IASSIST vice-president Ron Dekker was one of the panel members.

An Epidemic?

Finally, on a lighter and more personal note, there seems to have been a rash of births breaking out among European IASSISTers. On 30 June 2001 I gave birth to Marisa Inés Canessa Wright, followed by the birth of Isabella, daughter of Sue Cadogan of UKDA on 6 October 2001; Jildou Anne van der Meer, daughter of Cor van der Meer of Steinmetz Archive, on 12 December 2001; a son to Vigdis Kvalheim of NSD on 26 December 2001; in February 2002, Ron Dekker IASSIST vice president had a son, Rutger; Tiziano son of Lene Wul formerly of DDA and project Nesstar on 1st May 2002; and most recently Fraser, son of Alasdair Crockett of UKDA on 11th May 2002. The contagion may have spread further, but these are the cases of which I am aware ;-).

Melanie Wright
Colchester, June 2002

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