While the social sciences have always depended on the secondary analysis of data to address new research questions about society, politics, and economics, this is ever more important in a research landscape where funding for new data collections is increasingly more difficult to come by, and where governments expect more intensive exploitation of rich and existing publicly funded data to advance science. It is primarily for this reason that national ministries of European countries and the European Commission have invested heavily in the last few decades in data service infrastructures that curate and preserve digital social science data and make these available free of charge to the research community for secondary analyses. National data services offer large collections of important data for re-use, thus reducing the costs for new collections. The “Open data” movement in Europe in recent years has greatly strengthened the need for such infrastructures, and practices geared toward secondary analysis are slowly changing the ways in which research is carried out, with more emphasis on data sharing, best practices in data management, and documentation.
Many European countries now have long-established data services, many belonging to the international umbrella network of data services CESSDA – Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives. Yet, many European countries still do not have national data services, and so a great deal of original research data is lost and remains forever out of reach. Efforts are now being made at the European level to redress this problem and to establish new data services in countries where none exist to date. The successful FP7 project SERSCIDA (January 2012 – June 2014), funded by the European Commission, aimed to help establish data services in three West Balkan countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia). It involved intensive training, organisation building, development of technical infrastructure, and promotion and outreach activities. One lesson from SERSCIDA was that its model proved effective and could be extended to other countries with no existing data services.
The SEEDS project (South-Eastern European Data Services) will aim to widen these efforts, based on the SERSCIDA model and project outputs, and backed internationally by CESSDA, to establish new data services in the countries of Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and to continue their integration in the national and international landscape for Croatia and Serbia. The project will extend the capacities of selected partner institutions, and develop knowledge and tools related to data service infrastructures. It will bring partner institutions into the fold of an international movement and network that will provide long-term benefits not only to these institutions, but more importantly to the respective national research communities, including more available data for secondary analyses.