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German Data Forum Recommends: Standardise Access to Big Data, Readjust Infrastructure Roadmaps

Press release, June 17, 2019

During its 52nd session on June 6/7, 2019, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) discussed recommendations for improving access to big data for science and for the inclusion of the social sciences into infrastructure roadmaps. The results will be published in autumn 2019. They support standard-setting in the digitalisation of empirical research.
Additionally, the German Data Forum broadens its base: The group of research data centres with accreditation is growing and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde is the 15th academic society to participate in the election of the German Data Forum (RatSWD), which takes place in early 2020.

With its forthcoming publication, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) aims to foster the structural foundation and research policy for a continued digitalisation of social, behavioural, and economic sciences. Two publications will be released this autumn, one on big data usage, another on involvement in infrastructure roadmaps:

Standardise Access to Big Data
Currently, there are limits to unlocking the large potential of big data for research in a systematic way and with legal certainty. Research based on big data is often hardly replicable. This is why the German Data Forum (RatSWD) explored existing and potential ways of access to big data sources and their associated research data management and subsequently developed recommendations. For example, many researchers are already using Web Scraping as a method to gain individual access to big data. Legal questions about data usage and archiving, however, are not always fully settled. A legal expert opinion was commissioned to provide further support.

Readjust Infrastructure Roadmaps
Furthermore, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) scrutinised at its 52nd session the lacking involvement of the social, behavioural and economic sciences in past German infrastructure roadmaps. With such roadmaps, research sponsors such as the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research steer large investments in research infrastructures, increasingly in digital ones. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) identified possible obstacles: The definition of investment costs used in the roadmap procedure, expectations for financing of roadmap projects that are missing or difficult to anticipate, and the lack of an international orientation in the bidding procedure.

Expand data and methodological competence – FDI Committee grows
With two new accreditations, the FDI Committee has now 34 members. A new member is the research data centre (RDC) Qualiservice, which offers researchers an interdisciplinary access to qualitative data from different collection methods. Additionally, the RDC of the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA), received preliminary accreditation because it has just begun its operation. The RDC in the KBA will open its register of driver fitness for researchers. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) also awarded guest status in the FDI Committee to the RDC at the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM). This way, the methodological expertise and scope of research subjects within the network of RDC continues to grow.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) emphasised its broad disciplinary basis by including the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde on its list of now 15 academic societies with a right to propose candidates for election of the body’s scientific members. These proposals are therefore made by a very diverse community from the social, behavioural, and economic sciences. The next election takes place in February/March 2020. More information on the election and how to register as a voter are available in autumn at: https://www.ratswd.de/wahl (only available in German)

The next session of the German Data Forum (RatSWD) will be in Berlin on November 7/8, 2019.

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Established in 2004, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) is an independent council. It advises the German federal government and the federal states (Länder) in matters concerning the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural, and economic sciences. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has 16 members. Membership consists of eight elected representatives of the social, behavioural, and economic sciences and eight appointed representatives of Germany’s most important data producers. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) offers a forum for dialogue between researchers and data producers, who jointly issue recommendations and position papers. The council furthers the development of a research infrastructure that provides researchers with flexible and secure access to a broad range of data. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has accredited 34 research data centres and fosters their interaction and collaboration.