IASSIST in the Land of Kilts
Enlightenment and Arguments for Data Sharing
Helena Laaksonen 23.6.2005
The annual conference of IASSIST gathered over 200 participants in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the end of May. There were more workshops and presentations than ever before. The theme of the conference was Evidence and Enlightenment.
This year it was a joint conference between IASSIST, the International Association of Social Science Information Service and Technology, and IFDO, the International Federation of Data Organisations. The event was hosted by Edinburgh University Data Library and EDINA, the National Data Centre.
Approximately half of the guests arrived from the United States and Canada. There were over a hundred participants from different data archives across Europe; over 50 of them were British. Other European archives sent more representatives than in the past three years, when the conference has been hosted by North American organisations and participation has thus been more time- and money-consuming for Europeans.
Training Event for Data Archives
Taking part in IASSIST conferences really pays off. They can be regarded as training events where each participant receives up-to-date information on how archiving, user services and latest technology have developed and what kind of services different data organisations provide also on the Internet.
The DDI format for describing social science data was discussed in many workshops and presentations. The DDI Alliance which is responsible for developing the format had several expert meetings before the actual conference. Mari Kleemola, Information Service Manager, represented FSD at these meetings. There is a separate article on the DDI format in this bulletin.
Other workshops and poster sessions introduced participants to different kinds of useful services and training related to web resources, archiving and data analysing. For further information on the multimedia presentations of workshops see the conference site of IASSIST. A few of those presented web resources are collected to the In Brief section of this bulletin.
Problems of Data Acquisition
FSD's Information Service Manager was accompanied by Sami Borg, Director, and Helena Laaksonen, Information Officer. They gave a presentation on acquisition policies for data archives in their workshop.
According to the presentations and discussions, the situation varies in different countries depending on how established data archiving is there. Data acquisition is difficult in new, relatively small archives, because there is no culture of data sharing within the research community. On the other hand, large, old archives such as the UKDA are not able to archive all materials offered by researchers.
FSD carried out a survey in connection with its presentation. It was sent to European data archives and its aim was to chart the amount of support that archives receive from funding organisations. It examined whether funders recommend researchers to deposit data for archiving, whether they grant funding for archiving and whether researchers apply for funds for this purpose.
The survey was sent to 20 archives and nine answers were returned by the deadline. Almost all respondents mentioned one or two organisations which either recommend or demand collected data to be deposited for archiving. Only in the UK a sanction might follow, if the obligation is not met. Part of the funding is not paid, if data is not deposited. However, UKDA is responsible for controlling that the obligation is fulfilled.
In most of the countries, researchers do not apply for this kind of funding. Nevertheless, representatives of the data archives estimated that funding organisations would grant funds, if they were applied for.
New Elected Officials Started Their Term
IASSIST recently conducted its election of officers. Some of the officials continued in their post, but executive officers changed. Mari Kleemola was elected as the Regional Secretary for Europe. New officials took up office at the 2005 IASSIST General Assembly in Edinburgh.
»IASSIST conference site