ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving

The social science environment - changing times, changing names

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Established in 1967, the Archive was first named after the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) - the source of its initial (and ongoing) financial support. Since then, its name has changed no less than five times, each change reflecting the social science environment at the time. Even the Archive's birth name, the SSRC Data Bank, was not the name first conceived.

Early proposals were for a 'Social and Economic Archive' but Michael Young, then Chairman of the SSRC, thought the Archive should bear the Council's name to instil confidence in the Archive's longevity. And according to David Allen, his colleague at the SSRC: "Young disliked the word 'archive', feeling that it had a dispiritingly musty ring to it". He preferred 'data bank' - a term that unfortunately acquired somewhat sinister overtones soon after.

In 1972, to increase the Archive's appeal to potential depositors, it became the Survey Archive. 'Data' reappeared in the Archive's name in 1982, reflecting the broadening range of its data holdings as social science became less survey-orientated. In the eighties, government antipathy towards the social sciences led to pressure on the Council to drop 'science' from its name. It became the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in 1984, forcing the Archive to change its stationery for the second time in only two years.

The next name change followed government calls for stronger links between academics and the users of their research. The Archive responded, partly by increasing its support for teaching and learning, and was awarded direct funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in recognition of this new emphasis. With a broader support base, came a more generic name: 'The Data Archive'.

The latest (but perhaps not last) change to the UK Data Archive in 2000, reflects the increasingly global nature of social science research and the Archive's strong international focus.

Further information on the social science environment over the last 40 years.