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Richard Welpton

Secure Data Access Manager
UK Data Archive, University of Essex
How did you become involved in the world of data?: 

After graduating from my masters degree in economics in 2007, I applied for a job in the UK Government Economic Service. Felix Ritchie at the Office for National Statistics picked me out to work in the Virtual Microdata Laboratory (VML) that he had established a few years earlier,  which provided access to confidential/sensitive business microdata.  My role was to undertake statistical disclosure control of research outputs produced by users of the service, and to help and provide advice to researchers using the data for their analysis.  

A few years later, the Secure Data Service at the UK Data Archive was established, so I joined their team and moved to Essex, doing a similar role but helping to establish the Service.  I have been managing the Service since October 2012 when it became rolled into the UK Data Service.  As well as providing access to the business microdata that the VML offer, we also have sensitive survey data about children, young people and established survey data with very detailed geographic references.

What do you value most about your membership in IASSIST?: 

This is such a rare job that it can feel as though one is going it alone.  Fortunately, IASSIST welcomes you into a community of like-minded interesting folk.  I have learned a lot by participating in workshops, and sharing experiences with other members who provide similar services, and also by talking to others who may not necessarily work with restricted data.  The conference is always inspiring and I return to the office with loads of new ideas that will help to enhance our service.

What was your favorite IASSIST conference?: 

Well I guess Cologne 2013 was the best ever yet (until 2014!).  I really enjoyed my first conference in Vancouver 2011 - it was an amazing introduction to the data world, as I had no idea that so many people worked with so many different aspects to data.

What is your favorite data set?: 

It would have to be the Annual Respondents Database.  This is a survey of businesses in the UK, and asks over 1000 questions to collect firm-level data on productivity, capital stocks, costs, income sources etc.  We have a lot of fun putting these data together and making them useable for the researchers each year, and there are so many questions that can be answered with these data.  For example, some researchers have worked out that firms are perfectly able to cope with climate change levies without becoming less productive.

What are some things you are working on currently?: 

My main priority is building up the support capacity and expertise within the team.  We are also developing our Virtual Research Environment to enable our researchers to securely share and talk to each other when they log into our service. I am also working on a couple of papers arguing that data owners should consider long-term curation of sensitive datasets, and a paper arguing why open access compliments and supports secure access to data.

When not working with data I…: 

Run marathons, repair my bike, and also studying for a part-time PhD in economics.

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    Publications Special issue: A pioneer data librarian
    Welcome to the special volume of the IASSIST Quarterly (IQ (37):1-4, 2013). This special issue started as exchange of ideas between Libbie Stephenson and Margaret Adams to collect

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