Regional Report 1996-1997: Europe

Report of the European Regional Secretary

Bridget Winstanley
The Data Archive
University of Essex, UK
May 1997

Per Nielsen
The European Region and IASSIST as a whole are the poorer for the loss of Per Nielsen. His untimely death on December 27 1996 has deeply saddened us all.
The news items recorded below show some of the activities in the European region which involve IASSIST members. I know that there are very many more, but the deadline has come and gone, so this must be posted! I am sure that I shall have more to add when I present my verbal report at Odense in May.
The ILSES project
(Information supplied by Repke de Vries)
A group of Dutch, German, French and Irish institutes has been successful in obtaining funding from the European Commission under the 4th Framework for a project which will provide access to documentary information and empirical data related to large-scale surveys such as the binannual Eurobarometer surveys. ILSES is designed to serve both end-users and content-providers of socio-economic information.
ILSES allows end-users to extend literature searches to access to empirical data. This allows them to extend classic literature research with their own original empirical analyses of relevant data. ILSES of course also offers the other route: directing data-analysts searching for specific empirical data to be used in secondary analysis to literature in which results and outcomes of previous and similar analyses have been reported.
For content-providers ILSES offers tools and procedures for the normalization, cataloguing and controlled distribution of (distributed) holdings of the documentary and data resources mentioned above. Such content-providers are the database administration staffs of libraries and data archives. ILSES will enable them to drastically increase and improve the utilization of their information resources while at the same time reducing their support burden per information request or retrieval.
ILSES will be designed as an open system which can be applied to different kinds of library and data holdings. In this project, however, a pilot-application will be focused on socio-economic information as collected by large scale surveys, and on the associated literature.
ILSES is based on integrated relational databases of meta-information pertaining to both library and data-archive holdings, both of which are typically distributed over many different institutions.
The NESSTAR Project (Networked European Social Science Tools and Resources)
The NESSTAR project is utilising recent advances in Internet technology to meet the increasing demand for European data. The project has spent 12 months as a “Preliminary Pilot Project,” funded by the European Union. This time was spent evaluating available technologies, identifying user requirements and developing a functional specification, a blue print for the final system. The original partners, The Data Archive, Norwegian Social Science Data Services and the Danish Data Archive have now been joined by the Irish Central Statistics Office, The Norwegian Institute of Journalism, The University of Aarhus in Denmark, Anàlisis Sociológicos Económicos y Politicos and JD Systems, both of Madrid. These partners have submitted a new proposal to the EU. If successful the partners will spend the next two years building a web based system to provide online facilities to:
  1. locate data sources and browse metadata
  2. browse, analyse and visualise data and documentation
  3. deliver data and documentation (including subsets) in a variety of formats
  4. encourage feedback from, and communication between users

NESSTAR will lower technical barriers to data allowing users with few computing and statistical skills to access these valuable sources of information. It will also facilitate cross-national research. Further information about the project can be found at the project’s website, Any questions or comments about the project should be directed to Simon Musgrave or Michelle Rogerson.

News from Ireland
Ken Hannigan has supplied the following information:
Because Ireland held the Presidency of the EU last year Ireland was able in October to host a meeting of European experts on electronic records as part of the programme of cultural events under the Presidency. It included a half-day seminar for Irish archivists on the subject of electronic records and the launch of “For the Record”, the proceedings of the previous year’s conference on data archives, electronic records and access to information to which Denise Lievesley and Mark Conrad contributed (and which Mark co-edited). This was the first Irish publication devoted to the theme of electronic records and data archives.
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is funding a project to investigate the feasibility of an Irish Data Archive. The Data Archive at Essex was asked to undertake the feasibility study and Bridget Winstanley attended a scoping meeting in Dublin in December last year. Kevin Schurer has been appointed to carry out the feasibility study which will report to the SSRC in June this year.
Ken Hannigan’s report pays tribute to the influence of IASSIST on the activity in Ireland:
“IASSISTers (yourself, Denise, Mark) have been directly involved while others such as Peggy Adams and Tom Browne have been offering intellectual and practical support from a distance.
You noted in your report last year that Mark Conrad had been appointed as a Fulbright Scholar in the Archives Department of University College Dublin for the academic year 1995-96. He finished his stint in June 1996 but I think that his influence over the archival profession here will be felt for a long time to come.”
EconData: a Dutch data service for economic data
In the summer of 1996 SWIDOC’s Steinmetz Archive started the project EconData to establish a Dutch data service for economic data. This service will be integrated with the current activities of the archive. EconData builds on previous feasibility studies conducted by the Economic and Social Institute (ESI) in Amsterdam and the Economic Institute Tilburg (EIT). Both of these studies have been funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). For EconData the Steinmetz Archive receives additional funding from NWO. This grant follows on a recommendation by the Social Science Council (SWR) of the Royal Nether-lands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
EconData aims at broadening the scope of the Steinmetz Archive. New services will be established to support economic research, including macro-economics, business eco-nomics and economic modelling. In addition the more traditional functions of a data archive, EconData puts strong emphasis on data brokerage. The data service will act as an intermediary between suppliers of economic data and data users. This will include suppliers of international data and users of Dutch data abroad. For this purpose the project plan includes the establishment of an online register of available data sets, irrespective of whether these data sets are available from the Steinmetz Archive or from other sources. EconData will be evaluated after two years.
On July 1 drs. Albert Bots joined the Steinmetz Archive to act as project coordinator. He is currently active as lecturer at the department of Economics of the Free Univer-sity, Amster-dam. He is one of the authors of the aforementioned feasibility study by EIT.
SWIDOC/Steinmetz Archive
Project Manager Albert Bots
Herengracht 410-412
Tel.: +31 20 6225061
Fax: +31 20 6238374
Marcia Taylor has sent the following report:
The opening of the European Centre for Analysis in the Social Sciences (ECASS), a new large scale facility in the social sciences for European research and data analysis at the University of Essex was announced in the last issue. ECASS is an interdisciplinary research centre which conducts and facilitates the empirical study of social and economic change by integrating longitudinal and cross-national European datasets, providing support services required for their analyses, and acting as the host for major substantive research programmes, primary among them being longitudinal household panel and time budget studies. The Centre is coordinated by Marcia Freed Taylor, with John Brice as Database Manager. A short regular report on the ECASS activities and developments will appear in this and subsequent issues.
During its initial three months, the Centre has hosted several longer research visits, among them a visit of several weeks by Dr. Juergen Schupp from the Deutsches Institut fuer Wissenschaftsforschung in Berlin. Dr. Schupp works on the German Socio-economic Panel Study at DIW and carried out comparative analysis on the British Household Panel Study in collaboration with Dr. Malcolm Brynin of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social Change. He also spent some time with the Data Archive, identifying other potential data sources for further comparative work.
A research group from Belgium and the Netherlands, organised by Dr Walter Van Dongen, visited ECASS in March for a series of collaborative workshops with members of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social Change. A primary focus of interest of the seven researchers was the study of both the household division of labour and of female employment using the cross-national Time Budget data sets held by ECASS and the British Household Panel Study. Those who visited were from the Population and Family Study Centre (CBSG) in Antwerp (Van Dongen), the Panel Study of Belgian Households (Prof. Therese Jacobs), the University of Limburg (Prof. Mieke Van Haegendoren), and the Department of Comparative Population and Gender Economics of the University of Amsterdam (Prof. Hettie Pott-Buter, Dr. Kea Tijdens, Drs Susan Van Velzen and Wouter Buitenhuis). To continue with the joint research projects begun during this visit with Prof. Jay Gershuny and Dr Malcolm Brynin of the ESRC Research Centre, a follow-up visit is planned for later in the year.
The summer will be a particularly busy time, with over 16 fellows present. Some of these will attend courses at the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis and Collection (under full or partial ECASS bursaries) in addition to the comparative research work carried out using ECASS resources.
ECASS offers fellowships for periods of two weeks to three months to scientific researchers carrying out non-proprietary research who are nationals of a member state of the European Community or of an Associated State (currently Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Israel), and who are working inside a member state of the European Community, or an Associated State. While UK researchers can make use of the facilities and assistance ECASS provides, EC rules prohibit the payment of travel and/or subsistence costs. UK researchers are nonetheless urged to apply to ECASS, which will provide them with help in obtaining access to the data sources on social change held at Essex and with assistance in their analysis.
For more information, see the ECASS Home Page at:
or contact ECASS on
(44 (0)1206 873087
Fax: 44 (0)1206 872403
SCORUS Conference, Northern Ireland, 1998
Derek Bond is organising the 21st International Conference on Regional and Urban Statistics to be held in Northern Ireland in June 1998. Topics to be highlighted include The Creative City, Change of Life Patterns in Cities and Conurbations, Changes to the Market Environment, Measuring and Understanding Migration and its Consequences, Round Table Meeting on the Data Requirements for Urban and Regional Science. The SCORUS conference will combine the issues associated with data collection and dissemination with issues of regional policy, economic reform and urban re-generation. The programme committee welcomes offers of papers for the conference. Abstracts in either English or French should be sent to D. Bond, Ulster Business School University of Ulster at Coleraine, Coleraine BT52 1RT U.K.
JISC/NPO Digital Archive Working Group
The Joint Information Systems Committee (of the Higher Education Funding Councils (U.K)) and the National Preservation Office has set up a Digital Archive Working Group administered by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre. IASSIST members Denise Lievesley, Simon Musgrave and Bridget Winstanley have all been involved in this initiative.
Norwegian Data Service
Congratulations to the Norwegian Data Service on its 25 Anniversary which took place last year.
Data Librarian appointed at the London School of Economics
Data Librarians are a rare breed in Europe and we are therefore delighted to welcome the appointment of Simon Brackenbury in this capacity at the British Library of Political and Economic Science at the LSE. The post is a new one resulting from increased demand for electronic data in recent years. Simon’s duties will include: locating and acquiring data for staff and students; cataloguing resources; collating information about data use at LSE; advising and assisting in the use of software for analysis and liason with external data providers.
His contact details are:
Simon Brackenbury,
Data Librarian,
British Library of Political and Economic Science,
London School of Economics and Political Science,
10 Portugal Street,
Telephone: 0171 955 6130
Fax: 0171 405 7686