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Although the name of the UK Data Archive has changed over time, for simplification it will be referred to here as 'the Archive'.

Acquisition of data

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According to an article published in The Times on New Year's Day, 1967, Britain was "losing to America a steady stream of vital information essential for social survey work" because, unlike the USA, Britain had nowhere to store the data.

Indeed, the results of an earlier feasibility study provided convincing evidence that there was a large amount of data just ready and waiting for an archive to hold them. But, when the Archive was established, most of the potential depositors identified in the study found reasons not to hand over their data. Some claimed to be still working on them, others had developed an almost parental attachment to them, but most seriously, there appeared to be legal obstacles to acquiring the large datasets collected in government social surveys. Three years after it was established, the Archive only held a small random collection of surveys.

Fortunately, the seventies saw a change in policy for the government departments based, according to Ivor Crewe, less on any concern for the Archive's goals, and more on convenience. Severe job cuts had increased civil servants' work-load, Crewe explains, "so the business of getting a dataset to some academic let alone a student, was not a priority for them".

Since then, the quantity and diversity of data stored in the Archive have gone from strength to strength. This is due, in no small part, to the activities of the ESRC - not only for maintaining their faith (and funding) but also for supporting the creation of large datasets such as the British Household Panel Survey (a study that consistently features in the top five of the users' hit parade).

Forty years on, the quality of the Archive's data results in high demand both nationally and internationally, and it seems more than appropriate that international demand is dominated by researchers from the USA.

Further information on acquisition of data over the last 40 years.

UKDA40 Home Page > About > 40 years of the UKDA - acquisitions
link to UK Data Archive Page last updated 25 August 2010
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