FSD Bulletin

Issue 19 (1/2006)

ISSN 1795-5262

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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
E-mail: fsd@tuni.fi

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Grenoble Symposium

Secondary Use of Qualitative Data Interests the French Research Community

Arja Kuula

The University of Grenoble organized an international symposium on the re-use and archiving of qualitative datasets in November 2005. Secondary Analysis in Qualitative Research. Utopia and Perspectives gathered together almost a hundred researchers from around Europe. Presentations focused on the epistemological, methodological and ethical issues concerning the archiving and re-use of qualitative interview data.

European Archiving Practices Are Diverse

Archiving practices of qualitative datasets vary greatly from country to country. In France, for example, the whole issue of archiving and preservation remains unresolved. In Germany, plans have been made for centralised archiving. The German Central Archive (ZA) has been actively involved in the process of trying to settle the details of archiving. One possibility is to archive qualitative data at Archiv für Lebenslauforschung which is a separate unit of the University of Bremen. The Swiss data archive SIDOS has already acquired some rather large datasets and is processing them, but its limited scope of resources presents an unfortunate problem.

A pioneer of qualitative data archiving is the British ESDS Qualidata, along with FSD. Louise Corti and Libby Bishop from ESDS Qualidata accentuated the importance of research experience in archiving work. They feel that an archivist can gain the trust of researchers only by proving his/her expertise in researching as well. The majority of the staff at ESDS Qualidata are researchers with a doctorate and they usually return to research work after a few years at the archive. At the moment, Libby Bishop is studying the change in the significance of family meals and convenience foods in Great Britain during the last century. Her sources are archived datasets at ESDS Qualidata. Bishop's research is an excellent example of how new themes for research can be discovered from old data.

Ethics of Research Relationship

In my own speech, I highlighted the relationship between the researcher and research participant from the viewpoint of data archiving and secondary use. I pointed out how the privacy predefined by the researcher is manifested differently from the research subject's viewpoint. Interviews can be intensive, emotional and empathetic. However, research participants perceive them as interactions the aim of which is to produce scientific information, and not as something private and secret. The results have arisen from archiving work at FSD where negotiations about individual datasets with dozens of researchers and 169 research participants have taken place.

International Cooperation

Finnish Social Science Data Archive is already working closely with ESDS Qualidata on establishing archiving practices. Even closer cooperation is on the agenda. One of the intentions is to discuss how archived qualitative datasets could be adapted to research method resources. Another focus is on the development and testing of XML applications in archiving qualitative datasets. The goal is to enhance re-use of archived data by improving applicable software.

A book on the presentations given at the Grenoble Symposium is in preparation. It will be published in English and French. My book Tutkimusetiikka (Research Ethics) discusses the archiving of qualitative interviews from ethical and legal perspectives. It is available only in Finnish.

More information

» Archiv für Lebenslauforschung
» ESDS Qualidata
» Qualitative Data at FSD
» Secondary Analysis in Qualitative Research. Utopia and Perspectives
» Sidos