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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'.

Data discovery and dissemination

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There is little point in storing and preserving data if no-one knows what is there or how to access it. So the Archive has always made it a priority to ensure that users can find and retrieve data in the most simple and convenient way possible.

The Archive's first catalogue was a basic inventory produced in 1969 using the printer in the Computer Centre at the University of Essex. It generated just eight requests for datasets that year, but as the Archive had only six users and a very limited range of data to choose from, it is fair to say that the catalogue itself was a resounding success.

As the Archive grew, so did the task of producing the inventory. The next catalogue, published in 1972, took two members of the Archive's staff over a year to collate.

Updated inventories were then released regularly until the Archive launched its computerised bibliographic retrieval system in 1986, making paper catalogues redundant - just as well because, even then, the catalogue had grown to a heavy two volume tome.

The Archive was quick to take advantage of internet technology, launching its first web site in 1994 and developing a searchable web-based catalogue. Advances in information and communication technology also revolutionised the dissemination process.

With the launch of UKDA download in 2001, users can order and download their chosen datasets from the online catalogue at the click of a mouse. A far cry from the earlier cumbersome process of ordering data by mail (using paper registration forms), and waiting patiently for the data to arrive in the post on portable media such as punch cards or CDs.

The Archive's users have embraced the changes and, in 2006, the online catalogue generated over 49,000 requests for datasets, the vast majority as downloads and only 95 as CDs (there were no requests for punch cards).

Further information on data discovery and dissemination over the last 40 years.

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