Behind the scenes at the Archive: support services

Article dated: 20 March 2012

The Support Services team are data professionals with a wide range of knowledge and skills, who provide help and support to anyone interested in using the resources provided by the UK Data Archive and the ESDS.

The team answer help desk questions on a variety of subjects; in 2011 they answered nearly 4,500 queries.

All are logged into a query tracking database which is then used to enhance data documentation, and create new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

The majority of the queries received are in four main areas: finding data and using the online data catalogue, data-related issues, access conditions and restrictions on use, and registration issues.

Examples of finding data questions include:

  • a question from a charity on charitable giving in the ONS Opinions survey - we advised which modules of this long-running survey would be relevant
  • a business studies student looking for data on voting behaviour – we suggested that the British Election studies may be suitable for the proposed research
  • a user looking for information about diabetes

Data-related queries will be investigated initially by the Support Services team. When necessary these will be referred to colleagues at the ESDS services in Manchester who provide specialist support for particular data series, and the international macro databanks.

A number of data collections have special conditions of access. Those requiring a special licence must be approved by the data owner before access can be given. The team will advise users on the use and content of these datasets, as for some users the standard version of the data is sufficient for their needs.

registration queries

The team also advise users on how to register with the ESDS. In 2011 the online information on registration was improved and a new guide created. The registration renewal process was also simplified, and since July 2011 users are no longer asked for a memorable word when they renew their ESDS registration. These improvements have led to far fewer registration queries to the help desk.

Further improvements include an updated online video demonstration to explain the registration process and a review of the ordering and delivery processes.

Support services have used webinar technology to deliver an introduction to ESDS data. This proved to be very popular with over 80 participants, with more webinars planned.