New national digital repository for social and economic data

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is set to launch a collection of social and economic data through an investment of £17 million over the next five years.

The UK Data Service will be launched in October this year and will provide a unified point of access to an extensive range of high quality data, and is a vital step forward in the Council’s strategy to maximise the impact of investment in research.

Please see below for the Press Release, which is also available on the ESRC website:

Continuing access to the UK’s most valuable collection of social and economic data has been secured with a £17 million investment over five years for the UK Data Service. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the new service which will start on the 1st October 2012 is structured to support researchers in academia, business, third sector and all levels of government.

The new service will provide a unified point of access to the extensive range of high quality economic and social data, including valuable census data. It is designed to provide seamless access and support to meet the current and future research demands of both academic and non-academic users, and to help them maximise the impact of their work. 

The UK Data Service will:

  • Act as a trusted national digital repository for a wide range of data providers and users
  • Provide a single point of access and support to a broad range of high-quality economic and social research data
  • Provide controlled access to sensitive and/or disclosive data through secure settings
  • Raise the awareness of the data held by the UK Data Service amongst those who are not yet using the service, especially among those in business, third sector and at all levels of government
  • Extend use of its data holdings to the widest possible academic, policy and practitioner communities for generating greater impact
  • Develop and promote common standards and agreed strategies for data preparation, processing, documentation and preservation to promote data sharing and re-use 
  • Help the  social science community to develop the skills necessary to use the data available
  • Work with a wide range of stakeholders in the UK and overseas, including data suppliers, data funders and users, institutional repositories and Doctoral Training Centres

“The UK Data Service represents a significant step forward in our strategy,” says ESRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle. “As data are the lifeblood of research, our aim is to consolidate resources in a way that expands both the reach and impact of these vital investments. It will become a cornerstone for UK research; the place to go for high quality data and support.”

The UK Data Service will be created from the integration of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Census Programme, the Secure Data Service and other elements of the data service infrastructure currently provided by the ESRC. The integration follows an economic evaluation of ESDS, which reveals that for every pound currently invested in data and infrastructure, the service returns £5.40 in net economic value to users and other stakeholders. This compares favourably with the return on investment previously demonstrated for the British Library and for UK academic libraries in general.

“Between our services we have an impressive collection of rich research data,” says Dr Matthew Woollard, Director of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) and the UK Data Archive. “We are dedicated to the re-use, sharing and archiving of data because we know the effect it can have on the wider society. Together, we look forward to becoming the UK Data Service so we can continue to build on these excellent data and services to generate even more impact.”

Leadership from four UK universities

The UK Data Service will be a distributed service led by Dr Matthew Woollard (University of Essex) in collaboration with deputy directors Keith Cole (University of Manchester), Professor David Martin (University of Southampton) and Professor James Nazroo (University of Manchester). It will incorporate the new Census Support Service led by Professor John Stillwell (University of Leeds). All of the host organisations are making a significant contribution to running the new service.

The ESRC is now establishing a UK Data Service Governing Board that will have the responsibility and authority to ensure that the service is developed, managed and maintained in a manner that maximises its benefit as a long-term world class data resource. The Governing Board will be chaired by Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of Leverhulme Trust. 

Further Census support

The ESRC is also establishing Research Support Units for the England and Wales (University College London), Scotland (University of St Andrews) and Northern Ireland (Queen’s University Belfast) Census Longitudinal Studies to provide expert support to research users of the Census Longitudinal Studies and to promote the studies within the academic, policy, and practitioner communities. The UK Census Longitudinal Study Development Hub (University of St Andrews) will co-ordinate the common functions of the units and improve harmonisation across the Census Longitudinal Studies. The Hub and Units will also seek to promote a UK-wide Longitudinal Study, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The Hub and Units will start on 1 August 2012 and will be closely affiliated with the newly established UK Data Service.

Further Backing for Open Access Publishing of Research Data

Open Access RepositoryThe Association of Research Managers (ARMA) has teamed up with knowledge-transfer groups PraxisUnico and the Association for University Research and Industry Links (AURIL) to support open-access publishing of research data.

In a joint statement, the organisations say open access will lead to a more productive use of research results in both academic and non-academic settings; increase the ability of knowledge professionals to find, access and use the outputs and data generated by research for policy, social, cultural, health, environmental, as well as economic benefit, in the UK and internationally; and can potentially support innovation and the inventive process, helping to generate a faster translation of research into practice.

They also argue that research management, assessment and evaluation would be easier if research outputs are openly available, as this promotes innovation and competition
within and between research organisations. However, the three organisations – ARMA, PraxisUnico and AURIL – believe open access to data underpinning the results should not occur too early in the research process as it could  hinder collaborations with industry.

New EPSRC Policy On Open Access Publication

Open Access RepositoryThe Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has introduced a new policy on open access publication arising from funded research:

EPSRC Council has agreed to mandate open access publication, with the proviso that academics should be able to choose the approach best suited to their field of research. This mandate is now being implemented: EPSRC requires authors to comply with this mandate and ensure that all published research articles arising from EPSRC-sponsored research, and which are submitted for publication on or after 1st September 2011, must become available on an Open Access basis through any appropriate route. As now, publication costs may be recovered either as ‘directly incurred costs’ (if incurred before the end date of the relevant research project) or as indirect costs (and hence factored into the fEC indirect cost rate for the relevant research organisation).

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to making published work Open Access: Gold OA (pay-to-publish) and Green OA (self-archiving). Currently most research deposited in the Lincoln Repository is self-archived – that is, it has been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal and it is made available free of charge. The author must deposit the version of the article accepted for publication.

The publisher’s policy is a crucial issue as far as Green OA is concerned. Some publishers have repository-friendly policies, but others embargo deposit of full texts until a year or more after initial publication. SHERPA-RoMEO has a comprehensive list of publishers and their policies to check before deciding where to publish.

In contrast to Green OA, Gold OA is a business model adopted by publishers to respond to the increasing number of funders, like the EPSRC, who are mandating that publications are made openly accessible. On this model, the author (or, more likely, the author’s institution) pays the cost of publication – which can be substantial – and the article is then made OA in the journal.

EPSRC’s new policy makes clear that the costs of Gold OA can be met from the grant as a direct cost only where that cost is incurred during the period of the grant. If work is published after the grant is complete, then the institution must stump up the cash to publish or use a portion of the indirect costs to fund this. Lincoln is currently developing an internal policy on this issue.

Principal Investigators need to be aware of the implications of the mandate and discuss at an early stage (preferably before the bid is submitted) their plans for publication to ensure these meet the funder’s requirements and are appropriately costed into the grant where possible.

Orbital: some reflections on the bid-writing process

Joss Winn and Paul Stainthorp have both blogged recently on their experiences of writing a JISC bid for the recent call in their Managing Research Data programme. I’d encourage you read their posts for some interesting insights into the bid-writing process.

You can even have a look through the finished and submitted bid on Google Docs. As you’ll see, Annalisa and I are involved in this one. Our contribution will be around integrating the developed research data management system with our ePrints repository, and specifically on how the RDM might form part of a CRIS (Current Research Information System), such as the JISC-funded RMAS (Research Management and Administration System) project involving Exeter, Sunderland, and Kent.

This would pull multiple strands of research management information (e.g. project data, outputs, financials, impact, researchers and research data) into a single system. It would enable researchers to easily access all information relating to their research projects and outputs, while managers could quickly run reports to facilitate institutional-level strategic planning on research.

Here are some of Joss’ reflections on writing the bid:

Although the bid has been sent off now, and who knows whether it will be funded or not, the process of writing the bid has been really useful. I had planned to spend much of July drafting a journal paper but seeing the call, switched into bid writing mode. Writing bids regularly, I try to get something out of them, despite knowing that they may not be funded. The idea of retrospectively viewing unfunded bids as a waste of time would depress the hell out of me and so I try to approach it as a reflective process, where I talk with colleagues about what we’ve done, where were are now and where we want to go with our work. Through writing this bid, it became really clear how the work we’ve been doing on other projects has brought us to the point where we have a good team of people who have developed a very modern, extensible and flexible technical framework which we can deploy in a number of domains, including managing research data.

It’s encouraging to see such a positive attitude to bidding, viewing it as a learning experience rather than simply a hurdle which must be cleared to get in the funding.

As research funding becomes increasingly competitive, it really is important to see it as an ongoing process rather than viewing each individual application in isolation. Some will be funded, probably most won’t be, but unsuccessful bids needn’t be a waste of time. They can lead to the formation of new networks and collaborations which wouldn’t have taken place had the bid not been attempted. It is undeniably disappointing when you get knocked back, but persistence often pays off in the end. Taking on board the reviewers’ comments and advice of colleagues helps to identify weaknesses in the bid structure and eliminate them.

Repository Training

The Research Office are continuing to run several practical sessions during April, and this week’s workshops are scheduled as follows:

Wednesday 13 April 2011, 2-3.30pm in the Mezzanine IT Suite, Chad Varah House, Cathedral Campus

Friday 15 April 2011, 12-1.30pm in UL101, GCW, Brayford Campus

These ninety minute workshops will demonstrate how to upload your publications to the Lincoln Repository, provide guidance on publishers’ copyright policies, as well as writing the necessary metadata to assist the search engines sourcing their work.

Please send an e-mail to to book a place, or to receive further details on the other sessions scheduled, or to arrange a one to one appointment.

The sessions are open to both research and administrative staff involved in uploading publications to the Lincoln Repository.  No prior knowledge is required to attend.