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German Data Forum: Fostering Archiving and Re-Use of Qualitative Data

Press release, 30 June 2015

As a result of its last meeting on June 11-12, 2015, the German Data Forum has issued a statement [German] on qualitative social research data. It supports, in principle, the archiving and re-use of qualitative data insofar as this is possible without compromising original research aims and access to the field in question. The goal is to foster the culture of data sharing also in qualitative social research.

Qualitative social research commonly explores sensitive social areas and processes. Unmediated and productive access to these areas requires a bond of mutual trust between researchers and respondents. The German Data Forum recognizes that the feasability, appropriateness, and scientific merit of re-using data vary with regard to the type of material and research methods and require a nuanced approach.

Since, in qualitative social research, researchers are often actively involved in data production, the issue of data sharing is closely tied to the issue of intellectual property. It is therefore necessary to establish archiving methods that preserve the value of the material without compromising data protection. Specialized research data centers could serve as core components of the required infrastructure.

Primary researchers, reviewers, and funding institutions should jointly decide if and how research data can be re-used already during the project development and review phase. Presenting a data mangement plan should be made obligatory when applying for external funding. However, the decision as to whether data are suitable for re-use should not influence a project’s approval.

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.