Researching e-Science Analysis of Census Holdings
e-Science allows large datasets to be searched
and analysed quickly, efficiently, and in complex and novel ways. Little
application has been made of the processing power of grid technologies
to humanities data, due to lack of available datasets, and little
understanding of or access to e-Science technologies. The ReACH workshop
series investigated the potential application of grid computing to a
large dataset of interest to historians, humanists, digital consumers,
and the general public: historical census records.
The ReACH project, based in the School of Library, Archive, and Information Studies at UCL, worked in close collaboration with
- The National Archives, who select, preserve and provide access to, and advice on, historical records, e.g. the censuses of England and Wales 1841-1901 (and also the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Royal Navy censuses)
- Ancestry.co.uk, who own a massive dataset of census holdings worldwide, and who have digitized the censuses of England and Wales under license from The National Archives
- UCL Research Computing, the UK's Centre for Excellence in networked computing.
Other experts in history, archives, genealogy, computing science, and
humanities computing were also asked to contribute to the invitation
only workshop series. We have also had considerable advice and support
from the The Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre.
We saught to:
- Highlight issues regarding the application of e-Science technologies to Humanities datasets.
- Develop a project proposal for full scale analysis of Ancestry.co.uk's historical datasets utilising Research Computing facilities at UCL.
- Bring together a wide range of interdisciplinary expertise to ensure best practice.
- Highlight any issues of concern which would preclude a large scale project from being useful or successful.
- Ascertain the historians viewpoint of the benefits and concerns in undertaking a larger scale project.
- Predict the form and type of results which will emanate from a future project with the available datasets.
- Ascertain the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the transcribed datasets.
ReACH consisted of three one day workshops held at UCL in Summer 2006,
bringing together expertise across different domains to ascertain how
useful, possible, or feasible undertaking e-Science analysis of
historical census material will be.
ReACH research findings can be accessed here.
The Principal Investigator of ReACH is Dr Melissa Terras, the Lecturer in Electronic Communication and Publishing in DIS, working in close connection with UCL Research Computing, The National Archives, and Ancestry.co.uk.