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8 - The national data centres

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2018

Ellen Collins
Affiliation:
Research Information Network, London
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Summary

Introduction

In recent years, interest in research data as a primary output of academic work has grown substantially. So, too, have questions about the best way to ensure that such data is curated and made available in a way that allows easy reuse. This chapter examines one response to such questions: the research data centre.

Research data centres feature as a significant component of the research infrastructure in the UK, and the data centres discussed in this chapter are all national resources that bring together datasets or databases from a variety of sources in order to provide ready, usually online, access by researchers to usable data. Beyond this, the exact nature of what they do varies considerably, reflecting the centre's holdings and the purpose for which it was established. In particular, there is a distinction between data centres that exist to collect, curate and store original research data, and those that focus on providing access to data services from a range of external sources. For this reason, it is difficult to characterize research data centres as a group; each one is a response to the specific needs of the discipline or disciplines that it serves, as well as the types of data that it supplies.

The data centres

Within the UK, data centres have a comparatively well established presence in the research ecosystem, with the first incarnation of the social sciences’ UK Data Archive (UKDA) emerging as early as 1967. As Table 8.1 shows, data centres support a wide range of disciplines, although coverage is by no means universal.

Most data centres are supported by funding from one or more of the UK's research councils, seven publicly funded agencies responsible for co-ordinating and funding particular areas of research, and/or the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). There is considerable diversity in how such support is offered and maintained, even within the remit of a single research council. For example, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has six designated data centres, marked with an asterisk in Table 8.1, which are responsible for collecting and managing data and for the implementation of NERC data policies.

Type
Chapter
Information
Managing Research Data
, pp. 151 - 172
Publisher: Facet
Print publication year: 2012

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