The UK Data Archive (UKDA) is curator
of the largest collection of digital data in the social sciences and humanities
in the United Kingdom. With several thousand datasets relating to society, both
historical and contemporary, the Archive is a vital resource for researchers,
teachers and learners.
Social science research affects us all at every stage of our lives. Research
findings influence government policies on childcare, education, wages, health,
and pensions. For much of this research, social scientists depend upon resources
that are quite different from those needed by other scientists. Whereas an
astronomer needs a large telescope, a social scientist very often needs access
to large collections of high quality data.
Collecting data from surveys, questionnaires or interviews for one study is a
painstaking process. Providing that accurate records have been kept, data that
have been collected for one study can be analysed again for an entirely
different piece of research. Recognising this need, in 1967 the Social Science
Research Council supported the establishment of the Archive, and has provided
the long-term commitment of funds, which has been vital for its success.
The UKDA is an internationally acknowledged centre of expertise in
the areas of acquiring, curating and providing access to data. Since 2005 it has
been designated a Place of Deposit by the National Archives allowing us to
curate public records. We acquire high quality data from the academic, public,
and commercial sectors, providing continuous access to these data while we also
support existing and emerging communities of data users.
The UKDA manages the UK Data Service, the UK's flagship portal for research
resources and host to key national and international survey data collections,
international databanks, census data and qualitative data. The UK Data Service
provides access to disclosive and more sensitive data through its secure data
services. It is engaged in a number of data management and preservation
initiatives, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the
Medical Research Council (MRC), the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
and the EU.
Proudly engaged in research and development, and
throughout its over 40 year history, the UKDA has remained at the cutting edge to become
an international leader in curating and sharing data. It regularly wins grants
from other funders, which enable us to continue these forward-looking
activities. As a result, the Archive is well placed to take advantage of
opportunities created by rapid technological change.