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The Timescapes Archive Incremental Project and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) Digital Forum 19 January 2011 Cambridge Libby Bishop University of Leeds – Timescapes University of Essex – UK Data Archive. Timescapes Themes.

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The Timescapes Archive

Incremental Project and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)

Digital Forum

19 January 2011


Libby Bishop

University of Leeds – Timescapes

University of Essex – UK Data Archive

timescapes themes
Timescapes Themes

Relationships, identities, family life, intimacy, care and support

The dynamics of personal lives : key turning points and transitions

People’s biographies set against a backdrop of inter-generational and historical change

Projects that span the lifecourse


  • Siblings and Friends: children’s lateral relationships
  • Young Lives and Times: teen to adulthood transitions
  • The Dynamics of Motherhood: an intergenerational project
  • Masculinities, Identities and Risk: lives of men and fathers
  • Work and Family Lives: the changing experiences of ‘young’ families
  • Intergenerational Exchange: grandparents, exclusion and health
  • The Oldest Generation: events, relationships identities in later life


  • Qualitative longitudinal (10+ years) multi-media data
  • 400+ participants

The Timescapes Programme structure

  • Three strands braiding research, archiving and reuse
  • Declared goal to engage researchers as stakeholders

Distinctive aspects of the Timescapes Archive

  • Integration of research, archiving and reuse
  • Multi-media, longitudinal data with documentation
  • Explicit focus on ethical reuse of QL data
  • Accessible and secure
  • Linkages with other longitudinal data
  • Striving to engage researchers as stakeholders

The data is from three waves of interviews with the respondent and includes transcripts and photographs taken by the respondent.

  • If you click on the fourth entry for Wave Three you see this image.
  • The viewer allows you to zoom in and out of the image, rotate left and right and to see the image at its full size or as a best fit for the screen.
  • Going back to the results will allow you to access more information about the data.

These essays can be matched to the NCDS survey data of 11 year olds done in 1969. Extensive quantitative data is available, along with the young people’s essays.

is it ethical to reuse data
Is it ethical to reuse data?
  • Depends in part on confidentiality and agreements made at the time of data collection
  • Archived data should always conform to ethical and legal guidelines with respect to not disclosing participants’ identity when this has been requested by informants
  • Achieve this by various strategies:
    • consent for archiving (as well as participant, publication)
    • editing the original data (e.g., anonymisation)
    • controlling access (e.g., licences, case-by-case basis)

Why ask researchers to engage with archiving?

  • Early, informed consent from participants to share data
  • Consistent data management-transcription, anonymisation
  • Rich and extensive contextual documentation
  • Researchers as partners in design of access system-to ensure proper balance of sharing and protection
  • Collaborative models for reuse rather than “handoff”

To give participants greater voice

To ensure precious, hard-to-collect data is used

6: Can I ask a, I mean, I’m absolutely fascinated by this whole idea that you archive as you go along. I mean, I couldn’t begin to imagine doing that.

4: Neither can we. (Member of Timescapes team)

Seemed like good ideas at the time…


What worked well (mostly)

  • Consent
    • (mostly) standardised form , c. 95% consented
    • 225 participants so far – 17 no consent/embargo
  • Transcription and documentation

Anonymisation – mixed picture…

  • Guidelines jointly developed, but
  • Uneven implementation.

Revised system for marking sensitive and anonymised text-PLEASE READ

These guidelines document an important shift from the previous (18 April version) for marking anonymised text. The previous version called for use of an XML tag “<seg>”. That system is no longer recommended and a new system has replaced it.

Timescapes recommends using the following system to indicate anonymised text. At the start of the text to be anonymised, use the punctuation marks @@. At the end of the text, use the marks ##...

what worked less well
What worked (less) well

“I think at the moment the issue for me, for us, is that we didn’t anticipate how long it would take to prepare the data for archiving. And because… it is current and we’re aware that the data that we’re working with, are people’s current situations, that makes us even more concerned about anonymising, perhaps. ..But because of the time-consuming process, it can feel like a lot of our time is preparing the data for other people to use, rather than us, who collected the data, getting the chance to work on it, which is not really what we, the kind of situation that we want to be in.” (Timescapes researcher)

Some very real costs

Triple burden – collection, archiving, reuse

Burden fell disproportionately on early career researchers

But major successes as well

Consent – high success rate with difficult data

Demonstrated key role for fine-grained access controls

Innovations in researchers’ engagement with archiving

Working papers; researchers’ accounts in the archive

Stakeholder model has pros and cons

Practices to address researcher exposure:

Growth in more powerful access control tools

Archive “parallel” accounts from researchers, in addition to other contextual documentation

Accounts can also help to showcase under-acknowledged skills of preparing data for archiving

Finally, just as participants don’t (usually) reveal more than they want to, researchers may learn skills from “the other side of the microphone”

Emerging bright spots…

the timescapes archive
The Timescapes Archive:

ESDS Qualidata: