Economics Network CHEER Virtual Edition

Volume 11, Issue 1, 1997

SOSIG logo

SOSIG Revisited

Debra Hiom and Lesly Huxley
University of Bristol


It was just over two years ago that CHEER readers first read about the Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG) Project (No. 23, Nov. 1994). This article is an update on what has been happening during this period and future plans for the service. For those who are not familiar with the gateway, SOSIG is a service to provide academic researchers and practitioners with easy access to the world's computer networked resources. SOSIG points to resources on subjects ranging from Anthropology to Statistics. All the resources that appear on the gateway have been catalogued and described, these can be browsed under subject headings or searched for using keywords.

So What's New?

The SOSIG database has continued to expand its size and coverage and now contains over 1,500 records of high quality networked material in the social sciences. Changes have been made to the interface to allow users quick and easy access to all of the main features of the service from every page. Another feature that has been added recently is an online form to allow users to suggest resources to be added to the gateway. The Add New Resource form has proved very successful, several hundred suggestions have been received although not all of these will be added to the gateway as the resource still has to go through a process of quality checks before it is included in the database.

Download the graphic
Button bar on SOSIG

A popular output from the project was the paper based Guide to UK-based Networked Information Resources for Social Scientists. However the tremendous increase in the number of resources available means that a general printed guide to the Social Sciences is no longer feasible. SOSIG now offers a selection of subject guides for downloading and printing locally. The guides have been produced in Word for Windows but are also available in Rich Text Format. The guides on offer cover the most popular subject areas but there is also an option for users to request custom made guides of any combination of subjects that are covered on the gateway.

Supporting Teaching and Research with Training and Awareness

In addition to the day to day running of the service, SOSIG is committed to providing training for academics, researchers, subject-specialist librarians and Faculty support staff in the social sciences. SOSIG has one full-time equivalent post funded by the Electronic Libraries (eLib) programme which is shared between two Training Officers, Lesly Huxley and Tracey Hooper. They provide training materials and run workshops at HE institutions and conferences throughout the UK both to draw attention to the added value the service provides as well as introducing Internet and WWW tools and techniques.

The "bread and butter" course is the one-day Internet for Social Scientists workshop for network novices. Although these workshops are aimed at less-experienced net users there are fewer absolute beginners now than there used to be. Libraries and Faculties alike are establishing and developing their own excellent general Internet training programmes. The complaint of many staff and postgraduate students is that they have limited time to make use of networked facilities and need to know how to make best use of that time for their own specific teaching and research needs. The Internet for Social Scientists workshops provide a brief overview of Internet tools and facilities, but concentrate firmly on using SOSIG and other UK-based national services as starting points for Internet access to valuable and relevant networked resources worldwide. The training is tailored to the audience's subject-specialisms and level of knowledge at each workshop and is provided for participants in small groups of 12 or less at their own institutions.

The beginners' workshops are designed to be flexible enough to cope with a mixed audience of complete Internet novices and those with some experience. The sessions are also suitable for those tasked with providing similar training on-site to a larger audience who may want to adapt SOSIG's materials for their own use. Half day courses are available for more experienced users which look solely at SOSIG with no introductory material.

The team's portfolio of courses is expanding. Lesly and Tracey continue to run full-day Internet for Social Scientists - Introduction to Networked Information workshops for beginners or those with limited experience and knowledge of the Internet. A half-day session is also provided for the more experienced (SOSIG: Supporting Teaching and Research) which concentrates firmly on SOSIG and a comparison with other information discovery tools. Participants' familiarity with networked resources and WWW browsers is assumed for the half-day course. More advanced courses in searching and provision of resources on the Internet will be available from early 1997.

Requests for workshops in the past twelve months have been heavy and current bookings are listed on SOSIG for you to check potential availability. Bookings for full and half day courses are now being taken for the 1997 session and initial expressions of interest for the new courses are also welcome. To discuss your workshop needs, contact For further information see

Extending SOSIG to Europe

SOSIG has recently become involved in a European project called DESIRE. This is a large project involving 22 partners across Europe looking at building an infrastructure for researchers to use the WWW. One of the tasks of SOSIG is to provide a European catalogue of high quality Internet resources for the social sciences with multilingual access. This will help ensure that European resources are given a higher profile on the Internet and help to counteract the tendency of the Web to North American bias.

The SOSIG trainers are also working in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Newcastle on the European DESIRE project to produce training materials which can address the wider issues of delivery at a distance and self-paced learning tools.

Getting Involved

The project is in the process of reviewing and evaluating its progress to date before it embarks on the next stage of extending its coverage to Europe. This is where we need input from you. Is SOSIG providing the services that you want? Are there areas that should be developed? Do you know of resources that should be added to the catalogue? We are keen to involve our user community at all stages and levels. A user group for SOSIG exists for a formal feedback to the service, meetings are held at six monthly intervals and inform the implementation of the service. Users are encouraged to contact members of the user group with any issues they would like raised at these meetings (contact details of the members of the user group can be found on SOSIG). However we are happy to receive requests or queries at any time, users can contact the project at the address at the end of the article.

More Information on DESIRE

For more information about DESIRE see the project pages at:
[Now at -Web Editor]

If you want to use your specialist skills and knowledge to influence the development of the European gateway, please complete the form at: [No longer available- web editor]

or send an e-mail message to:

To Connect to SOSIG

If you have access to a WWW client you can find SOSIG at

If you do not have a WWW client you can access SOSIG using telnet - this will give you a text only view of the service. Make a telnet connection to and login as sosig

For more information contact:

SOSIG Project
Institute for Learning and Research Technology
University of Bristol
8 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1TN

Tel: +44 (0)117 928 7117
Fax: +44 (0)117 928 7112

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