ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving
 

International presence

places visited by Archive staff

Prior to the creation of the Archive in 1967, a small number of data archives already existed in other countries - the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. Thus from the start the Archive was part of an, albeit informal, international network. (In fact, one of the - potentially spurious - reasons given for creating the Archive was to "stop the present flow of survey material to 'banks' in other countries" - Evening Standard, 31 January 1967.)

Since the 1970s the Archive has engaged with a number of international initiatives in order to foster co-operation on key archival strategies, procedures and technologies; to encourage the exchange of data and technology across national boundaries; and to promote the acquisition, archiving and distribution of electronic data for research and teaching.

The Archive is a member of CESSDA and of the International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology (IASSIST) through which it engages in international collaborative projects on issues such as data sharing, metadata and social science thesauri.

The Archive is also the UK national member institution of the USA's national social science and historical data archive, ICPSR in Michigan, as well as the International Federation of Data Organizations (IFDO).

The Archive's involvement in cross-national research and development projects has made a significant contribution to new developments in data preservation and dissemination, metadata standards, software for web browsing, data discovery and data delivery.

UKDA 40 logo Archive visiting fellowship

In 1975 the UKDA inaugurated its Visiting Fellowship scheme. By 1978 there had been nine Fellows from Canada, the United States, Italy and New Zealand.

In May 1977 Professor Samuel Kernell of the Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, was the Survey Archive Visiting Fellow. His research interests lay in public opinion and electoral behaviour in the USA, on which he had published a number of articles in the American Political Science Review, Public Opinion Quarterly, and the Journal of Politics.

He spent his time at Essex on a comparative analysis of short-term electoral change in the USA, Britain, France, West Germany and Japan, using data lodged in the Archive.

UKDA staff have always kept abreast of social science data developments and represented the UKDA at many key international forums across the world. Equally, the UKDA has seen many visitors from all over the world come to learn how the UKDA works as a leading centre of expertise in data sharing, preservation, and use. In 2006 the number of such visits reached an all-time peak of 80.

CESSDA

In June 1976 the directors of the then seven national European data archives, including the Archive, met in Amsterdam to discuss international data transfers. This led, chiefly at the instigation of Stein Rokkan (the Norwegian political scientist, who was also influential in convincing Michael Young, the first chair of the SSRC, about the need for a data archive) to the formation of CESSDA, which above all agreed a protocol for the administration of data transfers between national organisations - later to become the CESSDA Trans-border Data Access Agreement.

The Council's General Assembly meets annually and now represents 23 national member organisations. An annual CESSDA Expert Seminar has also taken place since 1987, concentrating on practical information related to data archiving and aimed at developing the careers of junior and middle-ranking archive staff. A major achievement has been the development of the current CESSDA Data Portal, replacing its predecessor, the Integrated Data Catalogue. This provides a seamless interface to datasets from several social science data archives across Europe, building upon the work of a number of EU-funded projects.

In 2005 the Archive director Kevin Schürer was elected President of CESSDA (the first time the position has been held by the UK) and in 2006 CESSDA was identified by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap process as a major European research infrastructure.

ICPSR

Ann Arbor, Michigan

One of the Archive's main international partners is the ICPSR in Michigan, USA - the oldest and largest social science data archive in the world. The Archive first became affiliated with ICPSR in 1975, when it was agreed that it would act as a national distribution agent for ICPSR in the UK.

All academic users in UK universities, polytechnics and research institutes, as well as users in central and local government and not-for-profit organisations, are entitled to obtain ICPSR datasets through the Archive. In recent years regular staff exchanges have taken place between the Archive and ICPSR, and the director has been a long-time attendee of ICPSR Council meetings as the invited European (CESSDA) representative.

IASSIST

IASSIST logo

IASSIST is an international organisation of professionals working with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences.

Ken Miller's presentation at IASSIST 2005, Kevin Schürer presenting at IASSIST 2002

There are 300 IASSIST members, including a number of Archive staff. Members come from a variety of workplaces, including data archives, statistical agencies, research centres, libraries, academic departments, government departments, and not-for-profit organisations. An IASSIST conference has been held annually since 1974 and the Archive has long been an important and well-represented contributor.

Archive staff have been represented in a variety of elected and appointed positions over the years, including Administrative Committee members, European Regional Secretaries, and chairs of various committees. Melanie Wright is the current president of IASSIST and Louise Corti was IASSIST conference programme co-chair in 2007. Both Melanie Wright and Louise Corti are Associate Directors of the Archive.

The Archive as an international source of guidance and expertise

Since the 1970s the Archive has provided guidance to a host of visitors from overseas on issues such as data archiving, data management and preservation, cataloguing and metadata, and user support. One of the earliest of these visits was in 1975 from the Director of the Social Science Computing Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, who visited the Archive as part of a European fact-finding tour. This was followed shortly afterwards by a visit from the Director of the Steinmetzarchief in Amsterdam.

Visitors from South Korea in 2006

In more recent years visitors have been received from the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore and Australia, to name but a few. Most come on fact-finding missions, often related to establishing a new data archive, or just to learn more about what the Archive does and how it does it.