Rationale for the CESSDA PPP project
"The present major task is ... to create pan-European infrastructural systems that are needed by the social sciences ... to utilise the vast amount of data and information that already exist or should be generated in Europe. Today the social sciences ... are hampered by the fragmentation of the scientific information space. Data, information and knowledge are scattered in space and divided by language, cultural, economic, legal and institutional barriers" (ESFRI European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures, Report 2006).
Addressing this key task, as identified by the ESFRI Roadmap is central to the case for a major upgrade of the existing Council of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA) Research Infrastructure (RI), in order to ensure that European researchers have access to, and gain support for, the data resources they require to conduct research of the highest quality, irrespective of the location of either researcher or data within the European Research Area (ERA).
CESSDA has provided networked infrastructural services for the social sciences for the past 30 years through the acquisition, support and supply of data for the European social science and humanities (SSH) research community. Over this period it has grown both in geographical and substantive terms. The network now extends to 21 countries across Europe and also has associate partners in many of the emerging member states. Collectively the constituent CESSDA member organisations serve some 30,000+ SSH researchers within the ERA each year, providing access to and delivering some 50,000+ data collections per annum and acquiring a further 1,000 data collections each year. In addition, the CESSDA organisations provide access gateways to important SSH data materials and EU investments such as the European Social Survey, the Eurobarometers, the International Social Survey Programme and the European Values Surveys.
The CESSDA RI already has a critical impact on the SSH research community since it provides access to numerous data collections, enabling European comparative research and contributing to thousands of theses and scientific publications. Yet further work is urgently required in the form of a major upgrade in order to strengthen, widen and make the existing RI more comprehensive, efficient, effective and integrated. Such an upgraded RI will aim to enable researchers, not only between disciplines but also between countries, to work together, developing leading-edge research methods and efficiently analysing large and complex datasets; in essence, making it possible for researchers to sit at their computer, locate, access, merge and analyse data from a number of different sources: hence facilitating the potential for increased cross disciplinary and cross national research.
In summary, an upgraded CESSDA RI will achieve the following objectives:
- to extend the collections of CESSDA members for the benefit of research in the ERA;
- to promote the CESSDA member organisations as places of deposit for publicly funded data collections;
- provide a one-stop shop for data location, access, analysis and delivery across the SSH community of Europe;
- increase the quality of data available by refinements in existing software for data publishing, data linkage, comparison and harmonisation, and by creating an infrastructure for the inclusion of data held outside the present CESSDA network;
- create a more dynamic knowledge management oriented Web, where knowledge-products are fed back into the metadata supporting the data, thus creating bridges between text in scientific journals and the underlying data;
- expand on present metadata by collecting and disseminating community-produced metadata, and ensure quality data and services through the implementation of best practice resources;
- to prepare a strategic plan for CESSDA;
- to prepare a Business and Implementation plan for CESSDA;
- to make recommendations on the future legal framework for CESSDA;
- to prepare a Constitution document for CESSDA with associated articles and terms of reference, including signature-ready documents for the future governance of CESSDA;
- to establish minimum requirements for CESSDA membership and a Consortium Agreement between CESSDA partners and organisations outside the defined Research Infrastructure;
- the production of Best Practice Guidelines for CESSDA members;
- the production of signature-ready documents for CESSDA-related IPR;
- to extend the CESSDA network.
The principle outcomes of the achievement of these objectives will be the establishment of CESSDA as a legally constructed entity, membership of which will mark organisations as quality assured centres of expertise in the preservation, management and dissemination of research resources. Also, the undertaking will position CESSDA as the first choice for the deposit of data by both national and pan-European bodies, for example Eurostat and DG Research.
In line with the recently published NSF (National Science Foundation) report on cyberinfrastructures, the broad vision of the CESSDA RI upgrade can be stated as wishing to develop "a system of.... data collections that is open, extensible, and evolvable; and to support development of a new generation of tools and services for data discovery, integration, visualization, analysis and preservation...[consisting of].... a range of data collections and managing organizations, networked together in a flexible technical architecture using standard, open protocols and interfaces, and designed to contribute to the emerging global information commons."