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Love Data Week research data case studies: DCAL data archive

By Daniel Van Strien, on 15 February 2018

This week is Love Data Week an international event ‘to raise awareness and build a community to engage on topics related to research data management, sharing, preservation, reuse, and library-based research data services.’ As part of Love Data Week, a number of free events are taking place across Bloomsbury. We will also be publishing short research data case studies as part of Love Data Week. These case studies cover a range of disciplines and types of data generated accross UCL.
This case study looks at the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre data archives which collects 20 years of  data outputs produced by researchers in the centre.

Research Area: Deafness Cognition and Language Research

Dr Kearsy Cormier is a Reader in Sign Language Linguistics at DCAL and affiliated with the UCL Linguistics research department. Dr Cormier is interested in the linguistic structure of sign languages, especially British Sign Language (BSL) and in visual aspects of language more generally.

About the project

 The Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) Research Data Archive is an archive of 10 years’ worth of research data and associated metadata collected and analysed by Kearsy Cormier and around 20 other colleagues at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, covering a range of projects on linguistics, psycholinguistics, neuroscience in the field of deafness and sign language studies.

Project funding

DCAL was funded as an ESRC research centre from 2006 to 2016 and this archive documents all the data collected and analysed by DCAL-funded projects during that time. The aim is to add to it as DCAL continues with core UCL funding.

Research Data

A wide range of data features in the archive including Survey, Behavioural Experiment, Naturalistic Linguistics, Data, Observation, Neuroscience Experiment, Questionnaire. Participants were deaf and hearing sign language users, adults and children. As this population is quite small, opportunity sampling was used. Adults were recruited from the DCAL Participant Database, established during the life of DCAL, which by the end of 2015 contained around 800 potential participants. Children were recruited primarily through schools.


Data from these projects were stored in a number of local storage facilities including a secure server at DCAL, Experimental Psychology facilities and at the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Data sharing

The data are archived with UCL Digital Collections. As part of the process of setting up this archive a Data Archive and Management Policy was developed in consultation with many relevant units within UCL involving data protection, ethics, legal issues, research retention and so on.

Student involvement

Students have been involved in a number of projects included in the archive. The materials in the archive will also contribute to student teaching.


The process of archiving multimedia data from projects spanning 20 years raised a number of challenges. An initial challenge was to identify and detail of the data to be included in the archive. This can be difficult for legacy data because researchers may have left the institution, data may be incomplete and in some cases lost. The other main issues related to dealing with the anonymisation of video data, copyright and legal issues, preservation, format, and processing issues as well as challenges relating to cataloguing and processing the collection.

Further information

This archive offers a valuable case study for projects wanting to provide a subject specific collection of research data which includes historical materials. You can read more about some of the challenges and issues faced by this project in a forthcoming paper (accessible from 05/07/2018).

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