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UPTAP Project Overview

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What are the aims and objectives of the project?

The primary aims of the UPTAP initiative are to:

  1. build capacity in secondary data analysis;
  2. promote the use of large-scale social science data sets, both qualitative and quantitative;
  3. improve our understanding of demographic trends and processes which affect society and the population; and
  4. collaborate and communicate with user groups and policy-making individuals and organisations.

The initiative is predominantly targeted at early or mid-career researchers wishing to enhance their skills, experience, knowledge and expertise in secondary data analysis.

Consequently, the principal objectives of the UPTAP initiative are to:

  1. build capacity in secondary data analysis amongst new and mid-career researchers;
  2. spread knowledge and use of secondary analysis through and beyond the social science community;
  3. add value to the ESRC investments in the collection, preservation and promotion of large-scale national data sets by encouraging their use and exploitation; and
  4. in the longer term, to maximize the knowledge gained about economic and social change from secondary data analysis.

The UPTAP initiative aims to complement the activities of the National Centre for Research Methods and its nodes around the country.

Why is UPTAP needed?

We live in times when sets of social science data of different types are becoming available from various sources and an ever-increasing rate.  Moreover, we are also aware that the stock of those individuals and institutions with skills and expertise in quantitative methods for handling these data sets have been in decline for several decades in general terms as well as across the social sciences in particular.

Many of these census, survey or register-based data sets used in social science research  are very large and complex and many have not been effectively exploited.  In some instances, under-exploitation is due to the inherent complexity of the data sets, in other cases, it is due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining researchers in the area of secondary analysis both at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels.  This stems from a decline in undergraduates willing to develop research competencies or interests in research methods as well as a deterioration in the ability to inspire children at earlier ages in their education careers through the curriculum they follow at school.

Thus an initiative in the area of analysis of population trends and processes using secondary data offers an opportunity for those who are at an early stage of their careers  or who are mid-career researchers to enhance their skills, knowledge and expertise  in secondary analysis.  The data sets that are available provide tremendous opportunities for bringing researchers with different skills and from different disciplines together to work on substantive research questions in a more integrated fashion (by being part of the UPTAP initiative and network).

What types of project are being carried out by UPTAP?

A call for proposals was circulated in summer of 2005 and a series of commissioned projects were announced in August, to commence at selected dates from 1 October onwards over the next four years, and to be completed by the end of the initiative in 2009.

The types of projects commissioned were as follows:

  • secondary data analysis postdoctoral fellowships;
  • mid-career fellowships;
  • user fellowships, promoting the use of secondary data amongst non-academic users;
  • small secondary analysis research projects; and
  • larger capacity-building projects (with linked studentships).

Postdoctoral Fellowships

These awards are to improve retention of highly qualified people in the HEI sector and to protect the long-term career development needs of the next generation of social science researchers.  The objectives of these awards are as follows:

  • to produce publications to help secure a track record in secondary analysis and to improve opportunities for long-term employment in the HEI sector;
  • to disseminate research findings to both academic and non-academic audiences;
  • to further improve research and related skills through additional specialised training, especially in secondary analysis; and
  • to allow for further research using secondary analysis and related work through the development of proposals for further funding.  This is the key objective.

Mid-career Fellowships

These fellowships have been awarded to those with less than 10 years research experience or those with limited experience with secondary data analysis. The awards enable researchers to undertake specialist training, to participate in other development-related activities and to pursue a limited, focussed secondary data analysis research project on a full-time basis. The fellowships may include visits of up to 6 months to work within centres of expertise where specialist secondary data analysis is undertaken (e.g. ESRC Research Centres, ONS, Government departments).

User Fellowships

These fellowships are provided in order to facilitate collaboration between the academic and non-academic sectors. They allow for the secondment of a middle-level member of staff from a non-academic institution to work within a centre of expertise full-time where secondary analysis is undertaken (e.g. ESRC Research Centres) and enable the fellow to undertake specialist training courses.

Small Research Projects

Small research projects provide an opportunity for researchers to enhance their track records in secondary data analysis.  They are awarded to new or mid-career researchers to support free-standing research projects or those which are experimental.  Consequently, outputs of substantive research undertaken in these small projects should be communicated to others new to or thinking about secondary analysis.

Large Projects (with linked studentships)

These projects are undertaken by mid-career researchers with more experienced researchers taking the lead and providing supervisory and mentoring support. These awards may also include linked +3 studentships in the area of secondary data analysis.  As with the small grants, the projects include plans for sharing their experiences and lessons learnt.