SERISS project

Lorna Balkan

The UK Data Service has recently received funding to participate in an EU-funded project that complements the work that is being carried out within the CESDDA-ELSST project. The Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences (SERISS) project is funded as part of the European Union’s EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020 and runs from 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2019. The kick-off meeting was held in London on 21-22 September 2015.

SERISS aims to address some of the key challenges for cross-national data collection, including facilitating greater harmonisation of data collection, analysis and curation across social science infrastructures. Work package 3: ‘Maximising equivalence through translation’, will investigate different approaches to the translation of questionnaires, and conduct a comparative empirical assessment of thesaurus keywords. This latter task, which the UK Data Service Thesaurus Team will be undertaking, will evaluate ELSST and compare the translation quality of ELSST concepts with that used in questions in surveys conducted by the European Social Survey (ESS) or Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE).

Part of the investigation of survey translation will look at the feasibility of applying computational linguistic methods to survey translation. It will be interesting to see if any of these tools can be applied to the translation of thesauri.

Given time restrictions, the evaluation of ELSST will focus on the French and German translations only. The chosen evaluation method is back-translation – the target language translations will be back-translated, the results will be compared with the original Source Language (i.e. English) terms from which the translations were made, and any differences noted. The CESSDA portal will also be interrogated to identify multilingual surveys indexed with the translated terms, and the terms applied to these surveys will be compared with the Source Language terms and any differences identified. Ambiguous terms will be reviewed and corrected to make their meaning clear, as is happening already within the CESSDA-ELSST project.

Based on SERISS findings, ELSST translation guidelines will be reviewed and a set of best practice guidance established.

A further quality assurance process will be carried out later in the project when the preferred term labels and meanings of ELSST concepts will be compared with the translated question content of surveys to identify exact and partial matches in terms of meaning.

Other CESSDA partners are also involved in other parts of the project – ADP (Slovenia), CSDA (Czech Republic), FORS (Switzerland), GESIS (Germany), and NSD (Norway). We look forward to fruitful collaboration.

Feedback welcome
If anyone has any comments on the thesaurus evaluation task, we would be glad to hear them. Please either add your comment to this blog, or send them to the UK Data Service Thesaurus Team at

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