Case study

Delving into Data: Building data infrastructure

Author: Louise Corti, Nathan Cunningham

Date: 22 November 2017

Type of case study: Research

About the research

Collaboration on research data infrastructure is increasingly becoming the norm as global partnerships between research institutes grow. One example of where this has delivered very successful outcomes is the partnership between the UK and South Africa on the knowledge exchange project ‘Smarter Household Energy Data: Infrastructures for Policy and Planning’. This recently completed project resulted in collaboration on social science data services and the use of applied research to answer policy-relevant questions in the household energy domain.

Louise Corti, Associate Director at the UK Data Archive and Head of the Collections Development and Data Publishing teams for the UK Data Service (UKDS), was UK Principal Investigator working alongside Professor Martin Wittenberg, Director, DataFirst, University of Cape Town (UCT), who directed activities in South Africa. The team comprised Dr Nathan Cunningham lead on UKDS Big Data, Chris Park, UDKS Data Scientist, Simon Elam, Researcher at University College London, and others. Corti notes that this formal collaboration has allowed ‘insight to be transferred bi-directionally and means that new research agendas are being stimulated by increasing the availability of energy data for social and economic research, as well as testing assumptions about the quality and international transferability of these data for research purposes.’

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK and the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa, the project started in November 2015 and has run for 18 months. The key centres in the partnership through this period were two social science data archives: the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex, curator of the largest collection of digital data in the social sciences and humanities in the UK; and DataFirst at UCT, which archives and provides online research access to African microdata. ‘Knowing more about domestic energy consumption can better inform strategies to deal with fuel demand and poverty, and strategies for energy savings and efficiency,’ explains Corti.

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