Archive moves forward with data documentation initiative

Article dated: 20 March 2012

The world of digital data is changing rapidly, and the UK Data Archive is making important improvements to stay at the leading edge.

By adopting Data Documentation Initiative standards (DDI), the Archive is enabling technical advances that will serve data owners and users for years to come.

DDI logo

DDI is an international standard for describing social science data which facilitates the sharing and comparison of data collections. The codebook version of the standard is already used by Archive staff to document its data collections.

The Data Documentation Initiative Lifecycle (DDI-L) standard addresses all aspects of the data lifecycle from questionnaire design and data collection through archiving and discovery to analysis and re-purposing. It places a great deal of emphasis on managing versions, re-use of existing in-house or third-party templates, and identifying commonalities (for example where else a variable has been used).

To solidify and expand in-house expertise in DDI-L, the Archive is hosting a training course in March 2012. The three-day course will be led by two expert DDI practitioners, Wendy Thomas and Arofan Gregory, both members of the DDI Alliance's Technical Implementation Committee. The course will focus on the benefits of and use cases for adoption, plus techniques for the creation, storage, retrieval, re-use and transformation of DDI-L. A number of current collaborators will be invited to participate in the course in order to strengthen existing links and help expand the DDI-L community in the UK.

The course is an enabler for the Archive's pilot project to adopt DDI-L for its: Survey Question Bank, HASSET and ELSST thesauri, controlled vocabularies, data collection documentation, geo-referencing mark-up and longitudinal studies. The lessons learned from the pilot will feed into wide-ranging advances in the way the Archive creates, stores and makes available the metadata that describe its data collections, including redefinition of business processes and redevelopment of core tools. This in turn will help improve the services we offer to data owners, depositors and those who download data.