Qualibank update

It has been six months since we launched our beta version of QualiBank with 6 open collections. Since then we have time to examine feedback and publish more data collections.  We are happy that the system is fast and reliable. I would especially like to thank my colleague Darren Bell who has been the technical lead and mastermind on this project, and who translated our early vision for this system into a reality. He has enabled the UK Data Service to embrace XML databases, improve our Solr indexing methods and adopt a fine-grained citation approach.

The UK Federated authentication was added in August which has enabled us to publish a number of collections for which users must login with their local institution passwords (and be registered users of the UK Data Service).

As a reminder, some of the open data highlights include:

  • British Archive of Political History – a pilot project conducted in 1979-1980 aiming to collect a systematic oral archive of interview with key figures from politics, the civil service and the armed forces. Interviewees were selected predominantly former Permanent Secretaries or former Cabinet Ministers, and were asked questions relating to the whole period of their official life, concentrating on the post-war years.
  • Morale and Home Intelligence Reports – government documents containing rich descriptions of attitudes and opinions of soldiers and UK public during WWII. focusing on various topics including confidence in commanding officers, the government and the war efforts, postal censorship, leisure and entertainment, and personal finances and leave.
  • The Edwardians – the much-loved life story collection that examined family life and work experience in the early twentieth century in Britain and contains over 450 oral histories of individuals from this time period, drawn from a working class point of view
  • School Leavers Study – a collection of 141 essays written by school children from the Isle of Sheppey in 1978 where they were asked to imagine that they were 60 and write a short, reflective account of their life.

The Digital Futures project, from which our QualiBank was developed, came to a formal close in April. There is some final work to do in streamlining the publishing process, as it currently involves steps that require developer intervention. We would like to try to automate the workflow as much as possible, though in creating compliant XML documents, there is typically some bespoke programmatic work to do, like converting text formats and so on.  A technical paper is being drafted on the system, and also guidance for preparing and processing data into QualiBank, which will be added shortly to our UK Data Service qualitative data processing procedures. Finally we are excited that our proposed special edition journal comprising papers from users of our collections and those involved in the world of enhanced publications is currently in progress, with an expected publication date of mid-2015.


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