Benefits of archiving to the research community
- It is important to the scientific method that social science data generated from research projects be available for replication, verification and extension. A researcher can access data from ADA, verify the results of the original investigator, conduct analyses not performed by the original investigator, or use the data, survey instruments and methods to guide their own original research.
- The costs of running a survey are high, and beyond the reach of most students. Archived data allows the students to learn about research method and analysis in a practical way. They can easily gain access to a wide range of interesting and high quality data that can heighten their learning of quantitative research techniques.
- Through its different access conditions, ADA allows depositing researchers to get in touch with other researchers with similar interests.
Benefits to you, the depositor
- Your data will be stored indefinitely in a safe place, where it is easily accessible, and in a form that can be understood long after the study was originally conducted. This is useful if you are obliged to store the data for several years following the publication of results. It also means that any future analyses of the data will not rely on information stored in the memory of the people who did the original analysis.
- The potential impact of your data is greatly increased. Other researchers, even from other disciplines, will be able to use your data (subject to the conditions you specify) to investigate issues that you may not have the desire or resources to pursue. Anyone who publishes results from your data is obliged to cite the data file in the publication, so your name will appear in the reference list and therefore in citation indices (such as the Social Science Citation Index).
- ADA has facilities for distributing the data and documentation without any expense to the person who originally conducted the research. If other people become interested in the data, you will not need to be concerned with the cost and inconvenience of providing a copy for them.
- Your data is publicised on the ADA and ATSIDA web pages, therefore interest in your research can be raised.
Your obstacles, our solutions
There are five common reasons why researchers are hesitant to archive their data.
|I haven't finished publishing yet! I don't want other researchers to use my data before me!||We can archive the data but delay release
Publishing fully from collected data can take years after the data has been collected; this is particularly the case with longitudinal data. While having data archived might seem a good idea, it would seem logical to put it off until publications had been submitted.
At ADA we have many different conditions to data access that can assist the data collector who has not yet finished publishing. Firstly, ADA is not opposed to putting embargoes on recently collected data. It is more important to us that the data is safely archived to ensure that future use is possible. Secondly, the researcher can specify that they must be contacted to give or withhold permission to access. There are some researchers who require a written proposal from the potential secondary analyst, so they can check for overlapping research questions and there are others who ask to see any documents prior to publication.
It is important to archive while the data is still fresh in your mind. If archiving is left until the data are no longer useful, files and data may have been lost or forgotten. ADA is very flexible when it comes to conditions for access, and we hope that this makes it easier for you consider depositing while still working on the data.
|No time!||Usually a copy of the data and the survey report is all we need to archive the data
Once a survey has been completed, papers have to be written and published. Often the researcher is working on several projects at a time and when the publications have been made, the researcher must move on to the next project. With these time pressures, it is very easy to put archiving in the too hard basket.
ADA accepts data in almost any condition and format. While well documented studies are given a higher profile, our only requirement is that a licence form be signed, and that some documentation describing the study is provided. Documentation can take the form of published reports, journal articles or a set of completed deposit forms. If highly detailed documentation is not provided, we give a list of questions to the principal investigator, which they can answer in their own time. While all the forms we send may seem daunting, they are a goal, not a requirement. As a result, depositing data can be very quick if necessary, depending on the state of the data. We often receive the data via email and a licence form and documentation in the post.
ADA is happy to provide any advice required as to the state of the data, and how much work would be required to get it to an archival level.
|No money!||We can assist in you including archiving costs into your budget
With the costs involved in conducting surveys, often there is not enough funding for the researcher to do all the work on it that they'd like, let alone go to the further expense of allocating time and resources for archiving.
Unfortunately, ADA cannot provide funding for researchers to deposit the data with us. We try to cut down the amount of time required by the researcher, by sorting out the data and documentation for them, and providing a list of any information still needed.
With some research grants, such as those provided by the Australian Research Council and General Practitioners Evaluation Program, it is a condition of that grant that the researcher deposit their data at an archive. Researchers should factor in the cost of depositing into their grant proposal. If the data are well prepared and organised, it can be as cheap as emailing the data and posting the documentation and licence form in the mail. ADA is pleased to offer advice on the most cost effective way to deposit.
|What about the confidentiality issues?||Part of the deposit process is checking for confidentiality risks
When surveys are conducted, potential respondents are assured of the confidentiality of any information they give. It would seem unethical to break that assurance and pass the data out of your control.
When data arrives at ADA, the files are checked for confidentiality problems. Variables that pose confidentiality risks, such as postcode, are removed from the data, or collapsed into larger groupings. While the original data is stored if requested by the depositor, it is not available for public release.
Perhaps a better way to protect the confidentiality is to set strict access conditions. For example, if the respondents gave consent to the information provided to be used only for academic purposes, then by restricting access to researchers from universities for pure research, you are not breaching your agreement. As mentioned earlier, the depositor can also retain control over who has access to the data by stating that they wish to be informed about any request for access to give or withhold permission.
Depositing the data does not necessarily risk the confidentiality of the respondents, nor are we aware of any instances where confidentiality has been breached.
|Why should I bother with archiving when I've got the resources to store the data myself?||Archiving offers you a lot more than just storing the data
With the power and ease of personal computers, gone are the days when survey data was stored on magnetic tapes, which required specific expensive hardware and climate controlled storage, and with the shelf life of a magnetic tape being so limited, they had to be recopied every couple of years. Now with the personal computer, and large scale computing environments being accessible in most research institutions, storage of the data is generally not problematic.
However, even if there is the physical capacity to store a data set, this does not mean that the safety of the data is assured. Often with staff changes, files are carelessly deleted and documentation thrown away, to save space. At ADA, all files, both paper and machine-readable are stored in at least four different places that are regularly backed up. Because there are staff monitoring the data and documentation full time, any problems that arise are remedied quickly.
Even though at the moment your data storage facility is secure, it may not be that way for the length of time the data needs to be stored. Floppy disks are easily lost, unstable and may become corrupt over time. Large scale computing environments get upgraded, and statistical packages change. All these factors may lead to a dataset being safely stored, but unusable. ADA has staff able to use the latest analysis technology, as well as the older technology, and are able to convert between them. By first converting it to the lowest common denominator, the flat text format, ADA is able to maintain the functionality of datasets.