Identifying new data resources for longitudinal and life course research

Much ingenious use has been made of data sets, sometimes already longitudinal, retrieved from oblivion. For example the populations from whom information was first collected in the inter-war years in the British Boyd-Orr study, the Scottish Mental Health Survey, and in the US the Oakland and the Berkeley Growth Studies, and the Cambridge-Somerville Study were each found and re-contacted many years later for what has proved to be innovative and fruitful research. There are also instances of longitudinal studies which have stopped collecting new data and from which data seem not to be available, such as the Project Metropolitan undertaken in the Scandinavian countries, the British based European Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood, and the Estonia-based Paths of the Generation Longitudinal Study founded on the populations in the countries of the former Soviet Union.


Great research value has also been found in follow-up of individuals identified from clinical records already decades old. Barker’s hypotheses about biological programming, for instance, were in part founded on findings from the follow-up of adult physical health in those identified from their birth records meticulously and routinely collected in an English county.


Consequently we are keen to identify and review potential sources of information that could have value for longitudinal and life course research, and  to publish that information, just as the established studies are listed in existing indexes of longitudinal data sources.


We would like to find research data sets that are no longer in use, or as is sometimes said ‘orphaned’, in order to discover their potential for use in terms for example of machine readability, indexation of variables and ethical approval for research use. By contrast administrative data sets with potential value for longitudinal research may not be so readily identified, except in response to a research question, but information about their existence would also be helpful.


We are therefore asking for information about orphan data sets, and invite others to suggest data sources which might be helpful, which may be either existing studies or administrative data sources. Our intention is to bring to light largely overlooked material, and perhaps even encourage archiving of some research data sources not yet indexed or catalogued.


Please submit this information using the contact form below and on receipt of that we will be in touch.


Many thanks,


Mike Wadsworth and John Bynner



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