Social Science Scoping Study

This study, carried out by the UK Data Archive, formed a number of suggestions to The National Archives (TNA) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Social scientists' needs for public records are not as vast as those of historians, but access to public records is often required by social scientists directly from government departments.

On behalf of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and The National Archives (TNA), the UK Data Archive carried out a scoping study assessing the potential for development of social scientific research materials based on public records and allied archival materials held at TNA. A detailed report was delivered to both TNA and ESRC, and the main recommendations are below.

It was recommended that TNA, in collaboration with ESRC and the UK Data Archive, investigate the feasibility of a (historical) statistics portal to complement the proposals from the Statistics Commission. There should also be a publicised ongoing inventory of government sponsored surveys and statistics set up, and TNA's Operational Selection Policy (OSP30) should be more widely circulated amongst social scientists to inform researchers on current policy.

On the historical nature of TNA's collection, it was recommended that the ESRC include historical resources within its data policy more explicitly. They should consider a call for academic researchers to carry out three research projects in a non-response mode making heavy use of materials at TNA, covering the cost of living in the twentieth century, land use in a long-term perspective and criminal records. ESRC should also consider a call to implement two digitisation projects in a non-response mode relating to the published reports of the Social Survey and historical statistics. It was also recommended that TNA/ESRC investigate widening participation in use of census microdata with existing Licensed Internet Associates (LIAs), and invest in enhancing census microdata for the academic/social science community.

Archive contribution

The UK Data Archive was responsible for the management of the project and an independent researcher carried out the analysis of feedback.

Principal investigator:  Matthew Woollard
Funder:  ESRC
Dates:  January 2007 - May 2007
Contact:  Matthew Woollard
Links:  TNA ESRC final report