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German Data Forum recommends closely involving science and research into modernising registers

Press release, 11.10.2017

The German Data Forum welcomes a recent assessment report of the National Regulatory Control Council on the modernisation of registers. Digital administration strategies improve user friendliness for citizens and generate significant cost-saving potential, for example, with regard to the population census.

High-quality register data help to identify socially and economically relevant processes, to provide evidence-based advising to policy-makers and to identify quality shortcomings in registers. However, this requires making register data available to independent researchers. The German Data Forum recommends making regulated access to all registers for science and research a requirement by law.

The German Data Forum expresses strong support for the recently published assessment report of the National Regulatory Control Council [in German only] on the modernisation of the register system in Germany and wishes to reiterate its key points. The future federal government should make existing databases - which have been set up using immense amounts of public funding -  fit for the future. The German Data Forum has previously published comprehensive recommendations on modernising the German resident register in 2016 with the aim of improving the population census in terms of sustainability, costs and quality.

Furthermore, the German Data Forum recommends scientific access to register data by default as the only way to fully exploit the potential of registers for evidence-based research as a basis for political decisions and for the benefit of society as a whole. Moreover, the scientific community is predestined to support the modernisation of the German register system with its expertise and to help safeguard data quality. The integration of the scientific community in this process will contribute to achieving the modernisation goals outlined in the report.

The data of every existing register should be made available – at the very least for independent scientific research - in accordance with data protection regulation. The established research data centre (RDC) model could serve as an example  for securing standardised access to register data. The goal of centralised access to as many registers as possible should be taken into account early on and put into law. A central office for modernising registers, which the report recommends establishing, could also accommodate a research data centre for register data. In the social, economic and behavioural sciences, research data centres are a tried-and-tested way of making sensitive microdata accessible to science in strict accordance with data protection laws. The German Data Forum has acccredited 31 such research data centres and will gladly support any future endeavours with its expertise.

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The German Data Forum is an independent body of empirical researchers from universities, university-level institutions, and institutions of independent scientific research as well as representatives of important data producers. It was established by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2004 with the goal of sustainably improving the research data infrastructure and its international competitiveness.