ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving
 

Profiles

people from the Archive

The evolution of the Archive over the last 40 years, presented each successive director with different - sometimes quite unexpected - challenges. Their success in meeting those challenges has played a major part in shaping the Archive celebrated today.

The first director, Allen Potter, arrived prepared to tackle the challenge of setting up a new computerised archive capable of storing large quantities of data only to find that his major challenge (and that of his successor, Ken MacDonald) was actually finding any data to put into an archive.

When the third (and to date the longest-serving) director, Ivor Crewe, joined the Archive, he thought that acquiring major datasets and handling the ambitious plan of recording and categorising every single question asked in every single survey were challenge enough. But, as he recollected later, he found himself "taken completely by surprise by the miniscule number of actual users of the Data Archive" and very quickly reprioritised his agenda to focus on boosting user numbers.

Under Howard Newby, the Archive rapidly expanded in size as a result of a number of new projects, so much so that the Archive building had to be modified to fit in more staff. New projects and growth were also a feature of the Archive under Catherine Hakim and Denise Lievesley. Having come to the Archive from outside of the world of academia, both also brought new perspectives and worked hard to build stronger ties to external stakeholders, especially data-producing government departments.

The importance of external stakeholders still remains today but - as the community the Archive serves has become more diverse - one of the many challenges facing the Archive's current director, Kevin Schürer, is to ensure that the network of activities in which the Archive is involved connect to provide the desired synergies. The accelerating pace of change in internet technology presents yet another challenge as Schürer explains: "The Archive must be proactive rather than reactive - anticipating and preparing for new technology before it becomes established so that we are ready to roll out the solutions as soon as they are needed".

Indeed, expecting the unexpected was what most attracted Schürer to the Archive. "It is a wonderful time to be director because the Archive is facing a period of great change and I have the opportunity to influence that change", he says.

Directors of the Archive