The British Library has invited the University’s Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) to donate its research output to the national digital collection for international dissemination. The aim is to capture and preserve digitally important research in the fields of social policy, welfare, management and business studies for current and future researchers to exploit. A new initiative called Social Welfare at the British Library will also use these digital resources to help third sector organisations to access valuable research information.
SPRU’s research will contribute to this new portal which aims to offer a “one-stop-shop” for access to research literature by voluntary and community sector organisations, charities and independent research institutes working in the field of social welfare. The portal will offer access to research evidence that practitioners, researchers and policymakers need to support their work. The high cost of access to large commercial databases and research services are often onerous for many individual charities and voluntary groups. But this new resource will help to meet the need for top quality research information at a time when the third sector is increasingly taking over the provision of services from local and national government agencies.
Participation in the new British Library Social Welfare Portal will help us to reach more people with the results of our work
Professor Gillian Parker
SPRU’s Director Professor Gillian Parker said: “SPRU produces internationally excellent social policy research and we are committed to widespread dissemination of the outputs from this. Participation in the new British Library Social Welfare Portal will help us to reach more people with the results of our work. In the constantly changing world of social policy, the organisations involved with running services and supporting people in need, need to have the best information about what works well and what their users require to improve their lives.”
The preservation of key digital documents is a concern for the British Library which is developing mechanisms to keep them permanently accessible as hardware and software change over time. This will enable researchers to access material, which might otherwise be lost as technology moves on and websites change or disappear, for years to come. Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library has highlighted the need for digital preservation: “The task of capturing our digital intellectual heritage and preserving it for the long term falls, quite rightly, to the same libraries and archives that have over centuries systematically collected books, periodicals, newspapers and recordings – and which remain available in perpetuity, thanks to these institutions.”
SPRU already has links with the British Library in the field of digital preservation through the UK Web Archive initiative. This initiative chose a corpus of websites for their historical, social and cultural significance in the UK. SPRU’s website was one of the first to be chosen, in 2004. The purpose is to collect, preserve and give permanent access to key UK websites for future generations. The websites are preserved digitally at regular intervals so readers can see how a website evolves over time and what subjects were important to the website and its readers at those points in time.
These preservation initiatives act as a springboard for research and education, allowing new forms of creativity and knowledge creation. Without them, future researchers and citizens would find a ‘black hole’ in the knowledge base of the 21st century.