The origins of the German Data Forum date back to 1998, when professors Richard Hauser, Gert G. Wagner, and Klaus F. Zimmermann published a memorandum titled "Conditions for the success of empirical economic research and research-based policy advice in economic and social policy". The report contained a detailed description of the problems that researchers faced, when accessing statistical data and called attention to data protection issues. The memorandum sparked an intense debate resulting in the establishment of the "Commission to Improve the Information Infrastructure between Research and Statistics" (Kommission zur Verbesserung der informationellen Infrastruktur zwischen Wissenschaft und Statistik, KVI) by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 1999. The commission submitted an expert report on necessary measures to improve the research data infrastructure for the empirical social and economic sciences ("Towards a better informational infrastructure" 2001). The founding committee of the German Data Forum was established in 2001.
During its formative years, the German Data Forum’s founding committee (2001–2004) charted the course towards the research data infrastructure’s improvement. First, research data centres were established and, in 2004, the German Data Forum was appointed as an advisory council to the federal government.
The subsequent appointment periods were shaped by diverse challenges. Central aims were:
- Raising awareness among scientists, research sponsors, and policy makers for the relevance of research data and data access
- Shaping a science-friendly legal framework
- Setting standards and continuously improving user-friendly access to research data in line with data protection
- Expanding the decentral network of research data centres