ACROSS THE DECADES - 40 years of data archiving


Ian Diamond

The research of social scientists affects us all at every stage of our lives. Their findings influence government policies on childcare, education, wages, health, and pensions.

For much of this research, social scientists are dependent on infrastructural support of a quite different nature than that needed by other scientific disciplines. Whereas a particle physicist needs a large collider and an astronomer needs a large telescope, a social scientist very often needs access to large collections of quality data.

Data painstakingly collected from surveys, questionnaires or interviews for one study, can be analysed again for an entirely different study, providing that accurate records have been kept. Recognising the need to preserve and curate high-quality data for secondary analysis, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) (as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) was then called) supported the establishment of the Archive in 1967, and has provided the long-term commitment of funds, vital for its success.

The ESRC also leads the way in providing data for the Archive by investing in large-scale studies to create valuable datasets, and by requiring all data collected with ESRC funds to be offered to the Archive for secondary analysis.

The Archive has proved more than worthy of this investment. Throughout its history, it has remained at the cutting edge of developments to become an international leader in the field of management and preservation of data resources. As a result, the Archive is well placed to take advantage of any opportunities created as technology continues to develop at an increasingly rapid pace.

This publication celebrates some of the Archive's many achievements to date, and the services it provides to the social science community in the UK and beyond. Today's Archive is a credit to all the directors and staff who have worked hard to ensure its success, and to the University of Essex for its support in hosting the Archive over the past forty years.

Ian Diamond signature
Professor Ian Diamond
Chief Executive, Economic and Social Research Council