The overall aim of the Future Data Services (FDS) programme is to decide how best to invest in the next generation of data services beyond 2024.
ESRC needs to consider how to invest in providing access to social science data and associated services in the future. The aim of this is to ensure that the services and infrastructure we fund supports the needs of data users, owners and managers from across sectors, and remains fit for purpose, within a rapidly evolving landscape. This will be achieved through:
- evidence gathering
- synthesis of the evidence
- analysis of options
- agreement of an overall vision
- consequent commissioning.
UK Data Service
In 2012, ESRC funded the UK Data Service, which brought together a number of investments under the same roof. This included the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS).
Established in 2003, ESDS was managed and led by the UK Data Archive and consisted of four distinct services for researchers:
The pilot project Secure Data Service was established in 2009 with additional funding provided to the UK Data Archive from ESRC. UK Data Service brought all of these services together as a single service in 2012, led by a consortium of institutions including:
- UK Data Archive (University of Essex)
- University of Manchester
- University of Edinburgh
- University College London.
It continues to provide a wide range of services for users accessing data, including training, comprehensive documentation and support, and archiving facilities. It also plays a role in supporting users to use data more productively. UK Data Service remains the ESRC-funded repository for data generated through ESRC-funded grants.
The data access landscape has changed considerably since the initial investment in UK Data Service in 2012 due to a variety of factors, including:
- developments in technology
- increased public awareness of how and why their data is used
- a growth in the number of trusted research environments
- an increasing demand for openness in data and research publishing.
While the data landscape has expanded (with more types and sources of data available for researchers to use), service provision has also greatly increased. A number of new services have been established since UK Digital Service was launched in 2012. These include:
In addition, CLOSER has operated to provide services to researchers who are specifically using longitudinal data for their work.