Making research data accessible

Research data are the main resource of research. Far too often they are not preserved or made accessible and usable for the long term. This is how real treasure troves of data are lost. This is going to change.

Bibliothek mit Beschreibung von Teilen; © AdobeStock / ake1150

AdobeStock / ake1150

In recent years, Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) has launched several initiatives to make these very treasures available for the use of all disciplines. For example, the Joint Science Conference (GWK - Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz) has launched the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI - Nationale Forschungsdateninfrastruktur), which is intended to create a knowledge repository for the entire research landscape.

Digitisation offers great opportunities for research and education. Therefore, research data infrastructures need to be established and expanded and, at the same time, research data needs to be managed professionally – from collection to indexing, and from utilization to archiving.

While social science research, as well as language-related and text-related research, can access a well-developed digital base of data, this still needs to be created for other areas, for example, by means of the digitisation of holdings in collections and archives (more on this at eHeritage). Moreover, access to and use of qualitative and quantitative data for the humanities and social sciences is to be improved.

Since the early 2000s, the BMBF has supported improved access of the social sciences to social data, for example to the pension insurance fund, as well as to statistical data from the relevant state and federal authorities. In this context, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) was established and funded by the BMBF for over 15 years - until 2020. Besides, the BMBF funds long-term socio-economic surveys, so-called panel surveys. These include the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the family demography panel FReDA (Family Research and Demographic Analysis) and the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Furthermore, the BMBF supports the roof organisation of European social sciences data archives, the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA).

The already established infrastructures from the humanities and social sciences are currently being integrated into the NFDI at the national level – as recommended by the Council for Information Infrastructures (rfii). Embedding the NFDI into the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) will enable cross-national data-based research by using resources collectively. This is how NFDI offers the opportunity for interdisciplinary research in pressing societal issues on an empirical basis – and by this contributes to the performance and innovative capability of the research location Germany.