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Regional Report 2002-2003: Europe

IASSIST Regional Report 2002-2003
European Region

Melanie Wright
UK Data Archive
May 2003

Introduction

The past year has been a very busy time for those interested in digital resources for the social sciences in Europe. Aside from individual and national archive activities, there is a raft of cross-European initiatives of interest to the IASSIST community.

The report that follows will begin with some observations on the demographics of IASSIST European membership. I will then report on a few of the many 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/projects from whom I have received information.

European membership

There are currently 53 IASSIST members from 21 countries "on the books" for the European region. The decrease in European membership from last year's high of 82 undoubtedly reflects the fact that the 2000 conference was held in Amsterdam, and the 2001 conference in Storrs (not the simplest of US destinations for Europeans). The geographic breakdown by sub-region across these to years is shown in the tables below. I am pleased to note that although absolute numbers have dropped across all of Europe, the proportions are not wildly different between 2001 and 2002. Although the Anglo-Scandinavian domination continues, most encouragingly, we are maintaining a significant Eastern European presence, despite the reduction in Outreach Action Group funding between the 2000 and 2001 conferences. The social science data services movement is gaining momentum in Eastern Europe, and the activities of IASSIST have played a not insignificant role.


Cross European Collaborations

MADIERA

EU-funded project MADIERA (Multilingual Access to Data Infrastructures of the European Research Area) kicked off in December 2002. The three-year project seeks to develop the ELSST multilingual thesaurus, implement it within the new IDC 2 (the second CESSDA Integrated Data Catalogue) which will be based on the ddi and Nesstar technologies, add a graphical interface and improve the hyperlinking capabilities to online publications and knowledge systems, and explore ways to highlight dataset comparability and investigate persistent naming conventions for data resources. The project will produce a prototype IDC 2 in June 2003, releasing it in beta in December 2003, going to full release in June 2004. The next year will concentrate on adding content and consulting with users, culminating in a second release of the catalogue and tools in December 2005. Partners include

  • Norwegian Social Science Data Services (Co-ordinator)
  • UK Data Archive (Principal Contractor)
  • Danish Data Archive (Principal Contractor)
  • Finnish Social Science Data Archive (Principal Contractor)
  • Nesstar Limited (Principal Contractor)
  • Swiss Information Service SIDOS (Assistant Contractor
  • Greek Social Data Bank (Assistant Contractor)
  • German Zentralarchiv (Assistant Contractor)

MetaDater

EU-funded project MetaDater began in January 2003. The three-year project seeks to develop standards for the description of largescale comparative surveys over space and time, providing metatdata for contextualising and harmonising comparative data; and also develop the tools to create and manage this metadata. The deliverables are both a general Data Model for comparative surveys, which could be used by any system which deals with such data; and a specific set of tools based upon the model. The tools are MD-PRO for data providers or disseminators (archives, data services) and MD-COLL for data collectors or creators (principal investigators, government/non-government organisations, etc). The two will interoperate to form a consistent coherent metadata management system, from survey design and fieldwork through to preservation and dissemination, which is ddi-compatible and can directly feed dissemination systems built on the ddi such as Nesstar/Madiera. Partners in the project include

  • German ZentralArchiv - ZA, Coordinators
  • Danish Data Arkiv - DDA
  • Greek National Center for Social Research - EKKE
  • Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information - NIWI
  • Göteborg University - UGOT
  • Swiss Information and data archive service - SIDOS
  • Norwegian Social Science Data Service - NSD
  • UK Data Archive - UKDA

Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA)

The Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA) is a federal organisation that promotes the acquisition, archiving and distribution of electronic data amongst the social science data archives of Europe. In particular it provides a set of reciprocal agreements for the exchange of data between countries and an infrastructure for shared technologies and training opportunities. In March 2002, the directors of the respective European data archives met in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for the annual CESSDA Business Meeting hosted by the Archiv Dru?zboslovnih Podatkov (ADP). Discussion centred on inter-working relationships between the European archives. 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 (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 the UKDA Director should take this matter forward in the form of a working paper with draft recommendations. The relationship between CESSDA and the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the largest social science data archive in the world, 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 the UKDA Director was nominated to represent CESSDA for an initial two-year period.

This year's CESSDA Expert Seminar was organized by the Romania Data Archive (RODA) and the Zentralarchiv für Empirische Sozialforschung (ZA) and held together with the East European Data Archive Network (EDAN) DDI Workshop. The seminar provided an opportunity for members of European data archives to share their knowledge and technical expertise. By deciding to hold the 2002 meeting in Bucharest, CESSDA was also able to support EDAN's first DDI training initiative. Presentations and hands-on sessions covered a wide range of topics: the DDI and XML codebook production; XML mark-up of qualitative data; metadata; Nesstar publishing; data access and access control; the MADIERA project; controlled vocabularies and thesauri. A session on CESSDA cross-border data transfer agreements was also productive.

The East European Data Archive Network (EDAN)

Brigitte Haustein writes:

First EDAN Training Seminar

In September 2002 the first EDAN training seminar was organized in Bucharest. It was supported by the Romania Data Archive (RODA) and GESIS (German Social Science Infrastructure Services). The Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA) has also lent its support by sending West European experts and arranging presentations of ongoing projects. The CESSDA members decided to hold their annual expert seminar in Bucharest to make sure that the experts are available for both events.

There are a lot of European and American initiatives and developments in the area of metadata production. At the EDAN training seminar the participants from Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and Portugal were informed about these developments. Besides background information the seminar offered the chance of learning by doing in hands-on-computer sessions. The first day was dedicated to the production of DDI XML Codebooks. After a short introduction given by Ken Miller (UK Data Archive) Janez Stebe (ADP, Slovenia) guided the participants through the production line of the Slovenian data archive. Ken Miller continued by showing the next steps after the production of xml codebooks. Emma Barker (UK Data Archive) introduced an example of marking up texts generated from qualitative research. The NESSTAR technology was predominant on the second day of the seminar. Matti Heinonen and Mari Kleemola (FSD, Finland) presented how to set up a web data catalogue and install a NESSTAR server. This presentation was followed by a hands-on-computer session on the NESSTAR Catalogue and Publisher which was chaired by Adrian Dusa (RODA, Romania).

In a joint CESSDA and EDAN session Massimilliono Gerardi (NESSTAR Ltd.) introduced the new Access Control Unit which will be implemented in the latest version of NESSTAR (announced for the coming weeks). Bjarne Oymyr (NSD, Norway) presented the EU funded project MADIERA (Multilingual Access of Data Infrastructures for the European Research Area) as a further step towards the "Social Science Dream Machine". In the presentation of the MetaDater (also funded by the EU) Nanna Floor Clausen (DDA, Denmark) pointed out that the emphasis of the project is put on the creation of a metadata management and production system for simple to complex social science surveys.

Presentations and pictures at: http://www.roda.ro/en/workshop.htm

UNESCO Workshop on Social Science Data Archives in Eastern Europe 2002

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.

East European Data Archives Mailing List: EDAN-News

This mailing list is offered to foster the dissemination of news concerning data archives and archive initiatives in Eastern Europe and to discuss problems of data archives in general. It is a moderated mailing list intended for a highly interested audience. The contributors to the news list reciprocally inform on their activities, new projects and initiatives in the field of data archiving. We also appreciate information on promotional opportunities, grants, guest scientists, foreign exchanges, networks, project planning, employment opportunities, event info, etc. The language is English.

To subscribe to the list, send an email to: EDAN-News@berlin.iz-soz.de with just "Subscribe" (no quotes) in the subject field.

National Reports

CZECH REPUBLIC

SDA

Jindrich Krejci writes

During 2002 SDA continued its work in all three major areas of activities: acquiring, archiving and providing data files; promoting data dissemination and secondary analyses; and supporting special research projects. Highlights of the activities in 2002 are as follows:

Acquisition of data files

Data files from regular monthly surveys of the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IVVM) from 1989 and 1990 were transformed into the SPSS format, checked and included into the data library. SDA obtained and included also new data files from the IVVM/CVVM research programme held in 2001 and 2002. Merged data sets concerning topics such as voting preferences, political attitudes and attitudes to the EU were prepared on the basis of the IVVM/CVVM surveys from 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. SDA also acquired data from 10 surveys of the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs concerning working conditions, gender topics, life of the younger generation, etc.

Activities of the EDAN

SDA participated in establishing of the East European Data Archive Network (EDAN), which was launched on conference on Social Science Data Archives in Eastern Europe organised by the ZA in Berlin in February 2002. An informal network was designed to unite data archives sharing common problems and to be a starting point for the application for the 6th Framework Programme. With the aim to promote adoption of new technologies the EDAN Training Seminar on DDI was hold together with CESSDA Expert Seminar 2002, organised by the RODA and ZA in Bucharest in September 2002. The co-operation resulted also in a compilation of a catalogue of available data files from EDAN archives that should form a base for future collaboration of the EDAN network.

Comparative research: ISSP, ESS, PISA-L

SDA continued in its participation in the Czech part of the ISSP: data and documentation of the ISSP 2001 Social Networks were send to the ZA and ISSP 2002 Family was fielded. SDA also participated in preparation of Czech survey within the European Social Survey and took part in the team, which successfully applied for support for the PISA-L, a project of survey of pupils and their parents (fielded in 2003).

Analysis of quality of data

In 2002 the project Quality of Survey Research on Electoral Preferences sponsored by Grant Agency of the Czech Republic has been started. The objective of the project is to organise methodological surveys and conduct an evaluation of electoral surveys in the Czech Republic. The SDA also participated in the expertise of the Media Project, which is a large continual survey of periodicals reading and radio listening.

Others

A new person joined a team of the SDA - Yana Leontiyeva has been responsible for data administration and has participated in most of activities of the Archive. The Archive's information bulletin SDA Info was published two times in 2002. The Institute of Sociology launched a new structure of departments, the position of the SDA as a department within the scientific research section of the Institute was confirmed. Large floods in August 2002 had destroyed the library of the Institute and affected the research work of all departments including SDA - its activities were stopped due to technical problems for the period of three weeks.

DENMARK

DDA

Hans Jørgen Marker writes

From the beginning of 2002 it was clear that The Danish National Archives who owns the DDA was facing major budget cuts. At last years meeting it was uncertain how these cuts would be distributed over the different parts of the National Archives. As it turned out the National Archive regards the DDA as a non-essential activity and thus the DDA started 2003 with less than two thirds of the manpower it had in 2001. The process in-between has been very painful and has drawn dark shadows over the year.

It is by no means certain that DDA has seen the end of its troubles yet.

FINLAND

FSD

Sami Borg writes

FSD's fourth year of operation was mainly dedicated to basic data archival development. In the end of the year FSD's holdings included about 400 data sets. During the year FSD delivered about 250 data sets for secondary research.

A small proportion of the data requests came from abroad. FSD translates study descriptions in English for all the data sets archived, but this does not apply to data files. Translation of labels is available on request, and it causes some delay in data delivery for foreign researchers.

In 2002 FSD continued active PR and information efforts with the archive bulletin FSDnews (http://www.fsd.uta.fi/fsdnewwws/english/), information letters to various target groups, mailing lists, visits to national scientific conferences, and visit to university departments and other organisations. A senior researcher was hired for eight months to write 5-10 page reviews on various possibilities to use FSD's data. These reviews will be published mainly in 2003 in some main Finnish social science journals.

For about two years, FSD has developed a portal of social science learning environment for using quantitative methods and secondary data. It combines a hypertext textbook on basic methods, a Finnish on-line manual to SPSS, some subsets of FSD's data, and different teaching material (like exercises, slides etc.). The project started in 2000 with FSD's own seed money, and in 2002 we managed to fund about 60 % of the project from the Finnish Virtual University funding sources. For the moment, the portal is available in Finnish only.

THE NETHERLANDS

NIWI

Cor van der Meer and Heiko Tjalsma write:

Both archives are part of NIWI, the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information Services. At the end of last year the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands made its decision public that NIWI as it is currently organised will cease to exist in the near future. One committee has been formed to advise about the future of the growing research part of NIWI; another committee has been established to advise about the organisation and structure of the information services of NIWI, including the Steinmetz Archive and the Historical Data Archive.

There is another international committee working on advice for the Academy about the general data-infrastructure for the Social Sciences in the Netherlands. Several institutions as the Netherlands Research Council (NWO) and a number of Universities will take part in its ongoing discussions. At this moment it is not known what the new configuration will look like, but there is no doubt that the Data Archives will continue their services, either together or apart.

The Steinmetz Archive

It has been a busy year for the Steinmetz Archive. This is due not only to an ever-increasing number of clients, but also to the implementation of the new back-office system DDDI, which is DDI compliant and took quite some effort. The DDDI system replaces several databases and makes it possible to handle information about depositors, clients, workflow, and of course the study descriptions, all in one database.

Other projects in which the archive is involved are MetaDater and the development of a Question Bank for the Social and Cultural Planning Office. This question bank is designed around a special series of studies named "Cultural Change in the Netherlands", ongoing from 1975. The question bank makes it possible to follow the formulation of questions through time and even to construct new questionnaires. At the moment this database is being filled with content. The experiences of this project will eventually be used to develop an even larger question bank for the Steinmetz Archive.

The early notification of the discontinuation of NIWI has made it difficult to secure funds for projects at the moment. Some of the planned projects, for example the feasibility study on a qualitative data archive, have had to be delayed for this reason.

NNHDA

In the period May 2002 - April 2003 The Netherlands Historical Data Archive has carried out or is still carrying out several research projects. In April/May 2003 the ADA-project (Archiving Digital Academic heritage) will be finished. This is a pilot project in the field of long-term preservation of digital scientific or scholarly research material. Central question was the feasibility of setting up digital archiving services for the academic world.
Another research project, which has started in April 2003, is the Xtensible Past pilot project. Its aim is to explore the possibilities of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and OAI (Open Archives Initiative) for providing better access to and sharing of digital data collections by researchers as well as investigating XML as a new strategy for the long-term preservation of research data.

Finally also the large 'Life courses in context' project should be mentioned, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), which started late 2002. This is both a data-entry and an archiving project. It is carried out in collaboration with the HSN (The Historical Sample of the Netherlands). The programme's objective is to develop a database containing about 40,000 individual life courses of people born in the period 1863-1922.

ROMANIA

Romanian Social Data Archive (RODA)

Adrian Dusa writes:

During the last year, RODA went on a positive trend; it strengthened its position in the academic community, it developed and enlarged the data catalogue and began disseminating the data.

To better understand the activities that we undertook, we must start with the fact that we collected only the available datasets from the Romanian research institutes. These datasets were in no condition suited for data archiving: poor labelling, poor cleaning, and no documentation whatsoever.

Our task was primarily related to adding value.

We cleaned the datasets, verified the correspondence between the questionnaire and dataset, and created the metadata undertaking a work similar to archaeology, especially for the "old" datasets; this being followed by a translation process which is currently under way.

This time-consuming major project had two main results:

  1. High quality datasets for our data catalogue
  2. Best-practice for data documentation

We plan to use this best-practice material and send it to the Romanian research institutions interested to archive their data at RODA. This will help us to lower the workload and improve the disseminating process.
In the following months, we plan a marketing action with leaflets and promotional CDs for popularising purposes.

The year 2002 was a very active one:

  • March 2002: RODA was accepted as a member in CESSDA;
  • May 2002: we officially launched our data archive, being honoured by the Rector of the University of Bucharest and by the Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work; professors from the major Romanian Universities were present as well;
  • September 2002: RODA organized the DDI Workshop and the CESSDA Expert Seminar, with about 30 participants from Eastern and Western data archives;
  • October 2002: RODA strengthened the relationships with the other Romanian universities and research institutes, paying visits in 8 large cities. We gave about 20 presentations at various institutions during this activity, encouraging them to deposit their data;
  • December 2002: RODA had a presentation at the ISSC Conference in Vienna, applying for membership in IFDO.

SPAIN

Centre for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences

Martha Peach writes

Under the directorship of Almudena Knecht, the Library of the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences of the Juan March Institute is constructing a digital archive of some 60,000 articles from 11 Spanish newspapers that mirrors Spain's transition to democracy.

Spain's transition to democracy is one of the most cited cases of a successful and peaceful regime change of the twentieth century. It is a model studied and admired by the international community and imitated by a large number of countries in their own political reform process. The central object of this project is to provide a unique tool for the study of transitions to democracy, using as an example the Spanish case through the clipping archive selected and organized by Prof. Juan Linz.

The archive of over 60,000 articles is in such a delicate condition that the needs for its preservation conflicts directly with the corresponding need to make the archive available to researchers and students of transitions to democracy. Using current technology the archive will be preserved and will be freely available on the Internet with searching capability by a multitude of identifiers as well as full text searching. The articles will also be viewable and downloadable as a graphic image and they will be available as a text file.

Since we did not want to provide just a meta-data catalogue of the archive but rather provide a virtual archive with a catalogue and with enhanced searching and retrieval capabilities, we decided to include some new elements into the "tool box" of the archive's user interface. The most innovative element is the ability to use normalized fields as variables and thereby construct databases for use with SPSS or other statistical software. The normalized fields include register number of the article, author, name of newspaper, page, article length (represented by number of paragraphs), source of information, date, descriptors, type of article. Therefore a researcher wanting to do an analysis of newspaper coverage of a topic such as abortion could download the metadata of all articles that included the descriptor (or even the word "abortion", since there will be full text searching capabilities), then load the meta data into a data analysis program. By doing cross tab or other type of analysis the researcher would be able to do an analysis of volume of articles by date element or by newspaper or by type of article or by source of information used by the author of the article, etc. It is hoped that the researcher would also be able to click on the register number to retrieve the digital image or the text file, to enable confirmation of variables etc.

The project involves the development of five elements: a database registering each article, a thesaurus of descriptors, a graphic image archive, a text archive, searching screens with download, secondary analysis and printing capabilities.

The design work and the infrastructure of the project are open ended in that it can be applied to other archives. It is hoped that the project will generate spin off projects that will expand the coverage of the Spanish transition as seen in the press of other countries as well as reflected in other archives of interviews, personal archives of people of the transition, etc. Much of the design work is also applicable for treatment of similar archives of other regime transitions.

SWEDEN

SSD

Lennart Brantgarde writes

The SSD has over the last several months undergone an evaluation by the Swedish Research Council on initiative by the Swedish government. The report was released in early March and has recently been sent to the government.

After having given the actual picture of the usage of the SSD services for the last five years and some plans for new and additional tasks, the report tells about a highly under-financed situation. This has mainly to do with the present status under a single university faculty where for many reasons little can be done financially to keep up the budget balance. The report discusses two alternatives for a change of principal body: the National Archive and the National Research Council out of which the second body is clearly favoured and suggested. The change of Principal body should not have any consequences for the location of SSD which should continuously have Göteborg as site. In addition the report advocates a 100% increase in annual budget. The report also underlines the importance of a board of a more national mix and of especial importance would be the inclusion of people from leading financing bodies and councils.

It now remains to be seen how the Swedish government will add its final say.

In the meantime the services at the SSD have continued along well-known lines. New data have been added and slight increases in demand and disseminations can be noticed in accordance with long-term trends from the last several years. Cooperative projects with various Swedish research groups pop up now and then resulting in documenting endeavours. The participation in a major cooperative EU project has been very favourably received within the organisation and added another bucket of fresh air.

SWITZERLAND

SIDOS

In many ways, the year 2002 was not exceptional for SIDOS. We were busy with the distribution of datasets and the acquisition of new surveys, with an increasing collaboration of researchers. At the same time, more and more people used the website of SIDOS. Nevertheless, some aspects have to be stressed:

  • The new version of the National Science Foundation directives has now an article on the need to archive important research results.
  • SIDOS has published a survey on the satisfaction of Swiss researchers with the National Science Foundation.
  • SIDOS has been responsible for the European Social Survey (ESS) for Switzerland, showing that it could be of interest to link the knowledge of datasets with knowledge of the field.
  • Finally, SIDOS has had its 10th anniversary in 2002, which culminated in a scientific colloquium on "Social change, change of the Social Sciences" with the presence, among others, of Kevin Schürer of UKDA, as well as a roundtable with a selection of Swiss scientific authorities. This was also the occasion to publish a CD-Rom showing the richness of the data at SIDOS, new way to access data, various directions for new developments, including the integration of research, methods, and data.

All this shows that SIDOS has now found a place in the Swiss scientific landscape.

UNITED KINGDOM

EDINA

Robin Rice and Peter Burnhill write:

We report developments over the past year at national (UK & Scotland) and at local (Edinburgh) level, with reference to some happenings on the wider European and International scene.

Of special note is that Edinburgh University Data Library celebrates its 20th anniversary this year - 2003, marked by launch of re-organised website - datalib.ed.ac.uk. This coincides with several changes within the University: the appointment of new University Principal from an Informatics background who is putting the goals of e-learning and widening participation to the fore. Reorganisation has also put Humanities and Social Sciences into one of 3 Colleges, and we await the appointment of our new Vice-Principal (Knowledge Management). Scope of data services includes the 2001 Census data that is becoming available, multimedia (see EMOL below) and use of digital map data, with several training courses for each. The significance of NESSTAR and the new ESDS for delivery has increased.

The EDINA National Data Centre now has 42 staff, three in a college of further education, having launched a new service, Education Media Online, allowing download of documentary films, and won the contract, with Ex Libris, to set up SUNCAT (the Serials Union CATalogue for the UK). These feature in EDINA's new website with multiple use views: edina.ac.uk, a sign that presentation to specific communities matters. It has also been a year of collaboration in successful project activities: with MIMAS in supporting the National Learning Network and developing a national digital repository for learning materials (JORUM); with History Data Service in developing a Geo-Portal and a gazetteer broker; with several, including the British Library, in JOIN-UP, portals and brokers to assist use of journal literature. There is also opportunity to collaborate in the new eSocial Science initiative.

At UK level, the JISC, often in conjunction with the Research Councils and the like, continue to provide significant funding towards the development of a Common Information Environment for the UK, with competing emphasis on eLearning, eScience and life-long learning objectives. Of particular importance in Scotland is ensuring a good subscription base for the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. Funding has also been secured for Topar an Dulchais, a national corpus of 15,000 hours of digitised Gaelic Voice and Song. Across Europe, participation in the Sixth Framework is being worked out, as is collaboration with Internet2, not least in projects to do with authentication, authorisation and profiling.

MIMAS

New web interface to OECD data

OECD Main Economic Indicators are now being delivered via Beyond 20/20. This replaces our previous delivery software, TimeWeb Explorer.

Beyond 20/20 can accommodate the wide range of international databanks we will be delivering under the new Economic and Social Data Service (launching in June this year). Moreover, it is used by many governmental and intergovernmental organisations for the dissemination of time series and has emerged as the standard software for the delivery of this type of aggregated data.

Data access will remain at the same location: http://timeweb.mimas.ac.uk; you will need an Athens username and password to use the software. The help pages and Beyond 20/20 interface are under development and any feedback would be welcome, please email: international@esds.ac.uk.

IMF data

The IMF has agreed to give UK academics access to the statistical databanks produced by the IMF for a five-year period. This has been made possible by the establishment of the Economic and Social Data Service of which the ESDS International Data Service (supported by MIMAS) is part. Access to the IMF databanks will be free to authorised academic users.

The databanks provide a very complete picture of national finance, economic development, balance of payments components and international trade for countries around the world. This agreement will make it easier for UK academics wanting to use international data in research or teaching to obtain access to reliable and continuously updated statistics relating to global economic activity.

Census Services

The ESRC has undertaken a formal evaluation of the Census Dissemination Unit (CDU) for the period 1997 to 2002. The evaluation process is based on peer review of the End of Award Report and publications nominated by the award holder. The CDU has been awarded a grading of "Outstanding: High quality research making an important contribution to the development of the subject". An Outstanding grade indicates that a project has fully met its objectives and has provided an exceptional research contribution well above average or very high in relation to the level of award.

There has been a significant increase in the use of the aggregate statistics from the 1991 Census (LBS/SAS) as revealed in the following graph. This reflects the advent of the new one-stop census registration system that went live in August 2002 and removed one of the major barriers to using census data in research and teaching. It also reflects increasing interest in the census prior to the release of the 2001 census outputs. Since August 2002, over 3,000 registered users from 173 institutions have run a total of over 22,000 Casweb sessions.

Archives Hub

MIMAS is delighted to announce that the JISC has approved funding for the Archives Hub service for a further three years. This will allow the service to continue to provide access to descriptions of archival materials throughout the United Kingdom. There are currently over 13,000 collections described on the Hub, ranging from papers and photographs to electronic datasets. Over 60 institutions have their collections represented in the service. The service is available to everyone at http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk.

A significant area of work for the Archives Hub team in recent months has been the creation and fine-tuning of a new version of the software on which the service is run. This will allow contributing institutions to host their own version of the software, giving them the ability to create, edit and delete archival descriptions locally, instead of having to send them to a central database. The descriptions will still be accessible through the main Archives Hub service (thanks to a nightly "harvesting" process), but will also be searchable from a local web interface at the holding repository.

The other main area of research for the new period of funding will be focusing on the creation of software which will support the creation and sharing of name authority files. These can provide biographical and background information about individuals and organisations, as well as standardised versions of names.

A new "Call for Content" will be issued by the JISC shortly, to allow institutions to bid for funds for the creation of further descriptions of their archives for inclusion in the service.

Development work on the Archives Hub is undertaken by the Cheshire Development Team at the University of Liverpool. The service is overseen by CURL (the Consortium of University Research Libraries) and delivered by MIMAS.

UK Data Archive

The most important news from the UKDA in this period is that it was engaged in a prolonged bidding process to continue the range of services it undertakes on behalf of the ESRC and JISC. This process was concluded in the latter part of 2002 and we are pleased to announce a highly successful outcome. Funding has been secured for an initial five years (extendable to eight years following a mid-term review) for a new Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), which became operational in January 2003. ESDS is managed by the UKDA and run as a joint venture between the UKDA and UK Longitudinal Studies Centre (ULSC) at Essex, and both MIMAS and the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) at the University of Manchester.

A key feature of ESDS will be the development and maintenance of a more integrated approach to data archiving and dissemination, establishing a strategic vision that produces greater interoperability and synergy between the varied ESRC and JISC portfolio of social science data and information resources. In line with this policy, early goals for the new service will be to create a 'one-stop-shop' authenticated registration and data access system, together with a social science data 'Universal Portal'. Both will aim to provide more seamless and easier access to a range of disparate resources.

Within ESDS, the UKDA will continue to operate its central rôle in the acquisition, preservation, dissemination and promotion of social science data. This will be further augmented by MIMAS providing a new specialist service giving online access to a large collection of international macro time-series data. Equally, the CCSR will work to provide data enhancements to a number of heavily used government surveys, as well as organising a number of specialist training events and user support activities relating to these data.

The UKDA will continue to host a specialist unit for the support of qualitative data (Qualidata) that will place an emphasis on the creation of enhanced, online qualitative data resources within ESDS. The UKDA will also work with the ULSC to both develop and provide a number of data enhancements that will facilitate the use of existing longitudinal data collections. The overall management and co-ordination of ESDS will take place through the UKDA.

Against this background of bidding and preparation for the new service, the UKDA managed to launch a number of exciting new initiatives and extend both the quality and quantity of services provided for its user community. Highlights include:

  • integration of the Qualidata unit into the UKDA;
  • launching of a new instant Download dissemination service;
  • an increase of 65 per cent in the number of datasets disseminated (=14,295);
  • an increase of 199 per cent in the number of orders serviced (=5,780)
  • an increase of 75 per cent in the number of users serviced (=1,736);
  • an increase of 21 per cent in the number of datasets processed (=622);
  • launching of the new Census Registration Service;
  • publication of Preserving and Sharing Statistical Materials;
  • preparation of a new Digital Preservation Policy
  • completion of an in-depth study of data sharing and preservation for the Medical Research Council

Melanie Wright
Colchester, May 2003

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