Report: ESDS generates value for money
Article dated: 24 July 2012
An economic evaluation of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) reveals that for every pound currently invested in data and infrastructure, the service returns £5.40 in net economic value to users and other stakeholders.
This compares favourably with the return on investment previously demonstrated for the British Library and for UK academic libraries in general.
The report, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and prepared by external consultants, aimed to not only evaluate the economic benefits and impact of ESDS, but also to further develop impact evaluation methods that can provide the research council with robust and consistent estimates for all its investments in data service infrastructure.
The newly announced UK Data Service will draw on these strengths, as ESDS will be a key partner in the integrated service, providing users with a unified point of access to an increasingly extensive collection of research data including census data.
"This evaluation provides a strong and convincing case for the extraordinary value that ESDS continues to provide for users, data owners, policy makers and the wider society," says Matthew Woollard, Director of ESDS. "We are proud to have this confirmation of the value not only of our data, but also the documentation, guides, resources and training we provide to help researchers, learners and teachers make the most effective use of the UK's rich data resources."
The evaluation examined data and analyses drawn from a range of sources, including statistics on ESDS users and the data they use; evaluations of research data infrastructures in other disciplines; and documentation on the costs of accessing similar services in the UK and abroad.
The authors then conducted structured interviews with 33 key stakeholders and solicited further detailed feedback through two online surveys aimed at data depositors and registered users. In all, 6,773 people were invited to contribute to the report; 1,178 (or 17 per cent) responded.
Based on this information, the authors conducted their economic analysis using a range of approaches, from estimates of direct value to users extending out to estimates of wider benefits to users and other stakeholders. The analysis yielded a net economic value of £18m a year (more than five times the ESDS operational budget).
In addition, users indicated they would be willing to pay up to £25m a year for its data and services. When asked the amount they’d be willing to accept to give up their use of ESDS for a year, the responses came to £81m. Further analyses revealed research efficiency gains valued from £68m to £112m a year.
The full report, by Charles Beagrie Ltd in conjunction with the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University, Melbourne, is available at the link below.