The social science environment - changing times, changing names
1960s - The Data Bank
Although the 1946 Clapham Committee recommended that public funding of social science research in
universities expand, by the early 1960s total research funding for the social sciences from all sources
stood at only £5 million and there were still as many historians teaching in Oxford as there were sociologists
teaching in universities in Britain as a whole.
The expansion of universities following the Robbins Report of 1963 and the establishment of the Social
Science Research Council (SSRC) in 1965 led to the expansion of social science research within universities and it was
within this context that the SSRC Data Bank was set up at the University of Essex in 1967.
1970s - The Survey Archive
The 1970s was a period of growth in empirical social science research. By the mid-1970s approximately £50 million
per annum was being spent on social research in
Britain, half in universities and the rest in 'in-house' government research and independent research units.
In its early years the Data Bank originally experienced difficulties in populating its collection
due to the high standards it required from deposits, an immature culture of data sharing, and the restrictions
on use attached to certain studies, particularly government surveys. The turning-point came in the early 1970s when the Government
Statistical Service enabled government surveys to pass to the Survey Archive, as the Data Bank had been renamed in 1972.
1980s - The SSRC/ESRC Data Archive
The Survey Archive was renamed the SSRC Data Archive in 1982 in order to reflect the fact that a broader range of data
resources, more than just surveys, was now being collected and stored.
In the early 1980s government spending on universities in general, and social science research in particular, was
cut. As part of this process the Rothschild enquiry was set up to review the 'scale and nature' of the SSRC's work. Despite
government antipathy towards the SSRC, the resulting report was supportive of the Council whilst recommending a stronger
focus on empirical research and research considered to be of 'public concern'. Whilst the Government accepted Rothschild's main
recommendation - that the SSRC continue - a consequence was that the SSRC was renamed, becoming the Economic and Social
Research Council (ESRC) in January 1984. This resulted in a second name change to the Archive in two years - ESRC Data Archive!
The Archive was referred to as 'the Rutherford Laboratory of the social sciences world' in a
House of Lords debate on the Research Councils on 21 November 1984.
Whilst the 1980s could be seen to be a low point for the social sciences, in retrospect, pressures on funding
had both negative and positive impacts on the Archive - less was spent on primary data collection, yet this in turn
encouraged increased secondary use of research data and a greater acceptance of data sharing. The 1980s also saw the
Archive branch out through its involvement in a number of large co-operative data-orientated projects - key of which
were the Domesday Project and the Rural Areas Database. This set a trend which has continued up to the present.
1990s - The Data Archive
The 1993 White Paper on Science and Technology led to an emphasis on wealth creation and the need to establish
closer and deeper partnership between the academic community and users of its research. In line with this, the 1990s
witnessed an extension of activity by the Archive. In 1992 the History Data Unit was formed as a specialist unit
within the Archive, becoming part of the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) three years later (and as a result renamed
the History Data Service).
In 1996 direct funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) was received in recognition of the
support provided by the archive for teaching and learning. This led to a further name change with the dropping the
Council preface to become The Data Archive, together with a new colour scheme and logo being selected to co-ordinate
with the new image of the University of Essex.
2000s - UK Data Archive
This latest period started with yet another name change. In order to reflect both its UK-wide remit (post devolution) and
the importance of its role within the international data network, it became the UK Data Archive (UKDA).
Qualidata, a specialist unit initially set up in the Department
of Sociology at Essex in 1996 to acquire and support the secondary use of qualitative materials, merged with UKDA
in 2001, both streamlining procedures and facilitating greater cross-over between qualitative and quantitative approaches.
The UKDA's portfolio was also further expanded by the creation of the Census Registration Service (CRS) in 2001. Although it
had provided census data to researchers for 20 years prior to this, the creation of CRS marked the UKDA becoming a member of
the ERSC/JISC-funded Census Programme to a range of UK census outputs.
The changing nature of the Archive's role within the social science community and the requirements of its users were reflected
in the ESRC's green paper on 'Data Archiving and Data Resources' (2000) and resulted in the creation of a major new initiative in
the form of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) which came into operation in 2003. This formulated changes already
underway focusing on a more user-driven service with specialist support and data enhancement for key data resources through a
distributed service, based on collaboration between four centres of expertise: the UKDA and Institute for Social and Economic
Research (ISER) at Essex, and the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) and Manchester Information and
Associated Services (MIMAS) both located at Manchester.
In recognition of its position in disseminating and preserving an increasingly diverse collection of government data,
from 1 January 2005 the UKDA became a designated Place of Deposit for public records for The National Archives (TNA), thus
making the deposit of materials a legal requirement for the first time, and thereby ensuring the supply of key
social surveys for future research.
Most recently, in the 40th anniversary year, together with ISER, the UKDA moved into a new purpose-built social science
research centre costing £6.5 million.