What is SSJDA?
The Social Science Japan Data Archive (SSJDA) collects, maintains, and provides access to the academic community, a vast archive of social science data (quantitative data obtained from social surveys) for secondary analyses.
Data archives, well established in the United States and most European countries, constitutes an integral part of social science research and education. Due to the lack of data archives in Japan, however, large numbers of empirical data collected over the years have gradually disappeared after their primary analyses.
A unit within the Center for Social Research and Data Archives, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, SSJDA aims to promote empirical research in the social sciences, and has been disseminating archival data since April, 1998.
The Benefits of Archiving
- Promotes new research through facilitating secondary analyses of existing data.
Social surveys provide us with rich information regarding the responses of people to various questions. Among a vast array of possible combinations of question items, the researcher generally focuses only on a particular set of items, whose analysis serve to meet the researcher's specific objective.
Alternative perspectives, however, necessitates researchers to focus on different combinations of questions for analyses. Traditionally, when secondary analyses of existing data were not possible, researchers have had to either collect his/her own data, or abandon the research plan.
By facilitating secondary analyses of deposited data, data archives promote multitudes of new research, that would otherwise have not been possible.
- Enables effective use of existing data, which are products of extensive efforts, and alleviates the burden placed upon respondents.
Social surveys are made possible through the extensive efforts of researchers and the generous cooperation of respondents. They are also extremely time-consuming and expensive. It is therefore strongly recommended that social survey data are utilized as effectively as possible.
Having to collect new data, because existing data are not accessible, entails not only the waste of time and money, but also the unnecessary imposition of research effort on the part of respondents, which may eventually undermine their support for social science research.
Effective use of existing data, in this light, is a responsibility that social scientists bear upon respondents of social surveys. Data archives, therefore, contribute to alleviating the burden placed upon survey respondents.
- Contributes to maintaining and improving the quality of social surveys in Japan.
- Having access to existing data enables researchers to more effectively plan new research, by taking into consideration the comparability of surveys, reviewing effective question items, etc. Hence, secondary analyses of archival data are indispensable to the improvement of social survey standards.
- Cooperating with Other Organizations
SSJDA was established as a unit within the Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, in order to promote effective use of social survey data. It is unrealistic at this point, however, to assume that SSJDA alone can collect and maintain the vast archive of social science data. Hence, we encourage organizations and researchers to join us in our effort, by making data acquired in their specific professional fields available to the public. It is through such joint commitments that the overall quality of Japanese archival data can be improved.
Based on this understanding, SSJDA collects data from those organizations and researchers that are unable to distribute their data individually, but are willing to deposit them with us, while encouraging those that are able to. Additionally, in order to facilitate the data-users' task of locating relevant data from among multiple data archives, SSJDA provides a comprehensive index of data archives on the Internet, enabling data-users to establish necessary linkages. Upon approval from the data-owners, information on several datasets are provided directly from this index.
- Protecting Confidentiality
Given the increasing social concern about privacy issues in recent years, we fear that people may refrain from participating in social surveys, when they are informed that their responses will be archived and made publicly accessible. In preparing data for public release, SSJDA ensures that the identity of research subjects cannot be disclosed.
SSJDA also limits the use of its data to not-for-profit, academic research, and grants data access only to researchers and graduate/undergraduate students under the supervision of faculty members at academic institutions. Furthermore, SSJDA requires all data users to consent to the confidentiality agreement that the data shall not be analyzed in any way that will disclose the identity of individual respondents or organizations.
- Preventing Misuse of Data
A successful secondary analyses requires full understanding of the social survey: its research design, definition of terms, data collection procedures, etc. Lack of understanding, therefore, risks misuse of the data which may lead to inadequate conclusions.
In order to prevent such misuse, SSJDA provides data-users with necessary information and instructions. A "Users Manual"is prepared for each dataset, and a collection of survey reports containing information on the datasets is offered to data-users for reference. We also welcome inquiries from data-users.