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Article Published December 4, 2001

Rick Roberts Editor's Corner
By: Rick Roberts,

The following Press Release will be of interest to those researching their roots in Canada.

Press Release: National (Canada) Consultation on the Archiving of Research Data

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), in partnership with the National Archives of Canada (NAC), invites researchers to contribute to a national consultation on the archiving of research data. The consultation will help SSHRC and NAC develop recommendations for the creation of a new national system to preserve, manage and make accessible social science and humanities research data.

Currently, Canada does not have a national research data archive. As a result, many researchers do not archive their data or, if they do, they are obliged to rely on a limited number of over-worked and under-funded university data services. This places Canadian researchers at a comparative disadvantage. Because they do not have access to a comprehensive inventory of data sets, many data sets are under-utilized, particularly those from government sources. Some data sets are simply lost and never become available for secondary analysis. Such a state of affairs makes it more difficult to replicate and verify research findings. Researchers are forced to use data from elsewhere and to rely on foreign data archives to preserve their valuable research materials. At the same time, scarce public resources are expended on gathering data that may have already been collected or, indeed, that subsequently may be lost.

SSHRC and NAC have established a Working Group to examine the status of data archives for both data produced by researchers and data that is of interest to researchers. Digitized images, primary text collections, election studies, and longitudinal health and income surveys are just a few examples of what is currently available. No national agency, however, has a clear mandate, or the necessary resources, to insure such materials are properly preserved, managed and made accessible.

The Working Group will (1) explore possible institutional forms for a National Research Data Archive, (2) begin to define possible working relationships between a new system and existing agencies such as the National Archives and the National Library, and (3) determine how best to take advantage of new information and communications technologies. The Working Group will also act to raise awareness within the research community of how this vital piece of research infrastructure can contribute to their work.

We invite researchers to discuss these issues with their colleagues and provide us with input on how we should formulate our final recommendations. Researchers can do so by visiting the National Data Archive Consultation Web site, or by writing to the address below.The Web site contains a discussion forum, several background documents and a Needs Assessment Report. We will be accepting your comments, opinions, suggestions and analyses until January 1, 2002.

For additional information on the National Research Data Archive Consultation, please contact:

Dr. David Moorman
National Data Archive Consultation
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6G4
Telephone: (613) 943-5090


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