ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving
 

Support - going out to users

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Helping users to make the most of the Archive has always been a high priority, but for the first seven years, this support was mostly in the form of detailed guides.

Little had been done to inform potential users about the existence of this valuable resource until Ivor Crewe took up his directorship in 1974, by which time the Archive's lack of use had become a critical concern. In an effort to boost user numbers, Crewe gave talks up and down the country promoting the Archive and its collection with an almost evangelical zeal.

He also edited the first of what was to be a series of 75 issues of the Bulletin - a tri-annual publication providing a continuing source of up-to-date information about the Archive and any datasets it had recently acquired.

The current newsletter, ESDS News, is a quarterly publication highlighting the Archive's new developments, but much of the communication with users is now through email, mailbase lists, and the web site.

Over the last ten years, there has also been an increased emphasis on support targeted to specific groups of users, including workshops that focus on specific datasets and training on methodology. According to Kevin Schürer, this type of support is all the more vital as the Archive attracts an increasing diversity of users: "The number of users from disciplines outside economics and sociology is increasing and, most encouragingly, we are seeing a significant increase in use by people outside academia", he says.

The increased focus on outreach has paid dividends and the Archive now has many thousands of requests, not only for the data in its growing collection but also for help and support. Much of the guidance the Archive provides is now available online and, in 2006, users downloaded 807,797 PDFs giving advice on data use as well as data management and preparation.

Further information on support over the last 40 years.