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Data Resources for Rural Sustainability Research: Realising Their Combined Potential

  • Start date: 01 September 2004
  • End date: 31 May 2005

This scoping study explores generic and interdisciplinary issues of data access and availability, interdisciplinary working, data integration and data management models used by the UK Research Councils and government departments. Activities included a questionnaire survey of the RELU research community, targeted consultation with specialists and hosting a workshop on data integration. A full report is available on the project website reludata.csl.gov.uk.

The survey indicated that problems in gaining access to data are widespread and commonly relate to cost and/or confidentiality. Environmental datasets (eg land use/cover) are currently widely used, but socio-economic datasets (eg waste, recreation) are likely to be more so in the future. Language is a major barrier to interdisciplinary working, particularly between socio-economists and natural scientists.  Availability of tools for data integration is less of a problem, but methodologies and implications of integrating different datasets are often not well understood. 

Recommendations on the way forward are as follows: data management for interdisciplinary research should be adequately resourced, and be considered before projects begin; it requires stakeholder engagement, service provision and training as well as effective enforcement. Facilitation of communication between scientific disciplines is also an important element.