School of Sociology and Social Policy

Timescapes: An ESRC Qualitative Longitudinal Initiative

Details of the Timescapes Archive

A new model for archiving and data sharing

Timescapes has been built on an innovative, devolved model for the archiving and re-use of qualitative longitudinal data. This involved a continuous process of archiving and sharing data as an integral part of the 'live' study rather than depositing data in a general archive at the end of the study. The resource therefore has a specialist, thematic focus and interest, and will continue to accrue in value over time. This principle of data sharing applies to newly funded projects that are affiliated to the study, as well as to the core projects. The model has acted as a magnet for the development of new projects wishing to affiliate with the study and has attracted strong interest from archive and repository professionals.

Design and Scope of the Timescapes Archive  

The Timescapes Archive was developed over a three-year period and opened to users in mid 2010. It is a satellite of the UK Data Archive, built on a model of disaggregated preservation and comprising rich digital, multi-media holdings of QL data. The resource forms part of an institutional repository at the University of Leeds, and conforms to international archiving standards (OAIS). It was designed in collaboration with the UK Data Archive and the Timescapes Archiving project (Making the Long View). In order to fashion a resource and service that was in tune with the analytical needs of researchers, our projects teams were consulted on technical design, data discovery and data access functions and the templates and protocols for deposit and re-use.

Holdings and Search tools.

The Timescapes Archive holds rich, multi-media qualitative longitudinal data from our network of projects. The majority of the data are textual, encompassing interviews, focus groups, observational notes, and so on. There is also much extensive visual data, including timelines, collages, network diagrams, relationship maps, photographs, and video. Audio recordings are also available.  The data are complemented by extensive documentation, ranging from concise but comprehensive catalogue records, participant profiles, research design and methodology, anonymisation procedures, and socio-economic base data on the study participants. In some cases, detailed fieldwork notes are available and information about the broader socio-demographic, economic and social policy context in which the research was conducted.

Bringing the core datasets into a common frame enhances the potential for linking related data; we have built refined browse and search tools into the Archive to facilitate analyses of thematically related data across projects, and aid longitudinal and inter-generational analysis of case data.  Data files can be searched using conceptual and descriptive key word searching at case level - facilitating a more complex and nuanced discovery of temporal data than is usually the case in generic data facilities.

Timescapes metadata specification and schema


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