Data Archive for the Social Sciences (DAS)

Pascal Siegers

Datenarchiv für Sozialwissenschaften National Surveys Kommissarischer Abteilungsleiter

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The department Data Archive for the Social Sciences (DAS) is Germany’s central infrastructure for the registration, documentation and digital archiving of quantitative research data which can be used to analyze societal developments from a national, internationally comparative or historical perspective.

DAS assists researchers in developing data preservation and archiving strategies; it offers modular documentation and archiving services that can be tailored to the needs of specific projects; and it supports researchers in finding relevant data for secondary analyses. DAS provides access to the data of more than 5,500 studies and delivers more than 50,000 individual data sets per year to users around the world. Apart from consulting and data services, DAS also offers training and workshops in the fields of research data management and digital archiving and preservation as a direct instrument of knowledge transfer.

With its unique range of services and solutions, DAS is a competent and sought-after partner for the scientific community.

Archive Operations

The Archive Operations team is responsible for the core services of the data archive: taking over submitted data and preparing it for inclusion into the archive (ingest), its indexing, description and long-term preservation. Beyond that the team provides the basic data service, i. e. the provision of data and the operation of the central helpdesk as the first point of contact for secondary users. Besides serving external users, the team delivers as well essential background services for internal teams with value-added services. Furthermore, due to the high standard of internal processes, these services are also offered to external data-holding organisations.

Archive Instruments and Metadata Standards

Team Archive Instruments and Metadata Standards develops standards, software tools and workflows for the products and services provided by the wider Data Archive. Its two primary fields of work are the application of common metadata standards for social science research data and the development of software tools for the archival documentation of such data. Its goal is to ensure the interoperability of services and to strengthen operational synergies within the department by developing common workflows and coordinating the use of software tools. Additionally, the usage of consistent and internationally acknowledged metadata standards serves to ensure the connectivity of the Data Archive’s services and products within GESIS and with national and international co-operation partners.

da|ra

The main task of the team is the provision of a DOI registration service for social science data. Together with the Leibniz Information Center for Economics (ZBW) it operates the non-commercial data registration agency da|ra (http://www.da-ra.de/en/home/). By using the DOI® System (Digital Object Identifier System, http://doi.org ), da|ra makes primary data permanently identifiable and available. da|ra pursues the goal of promoting and establishing global, uniform standards for the acceptance of research data as independent, citable scientific entities. The service has been provided since 2011 and it is based on the DataCite membership of GESIS and ZBW (http://www.datacite.org ).

The registration agency da|ra offers a complete infrastructure for DOI registration and metadata administration. da|ra is a service provider for data centres and data providers that want to register their primary data with DOIs. It includes survey data, aggregate data but also qualitative data. da|ra started as a German service. The da|ra database already includes searchable metadata from all registered data, among them the considerable holdings of the GESIS data archive as well as those of the leading German Research Data Centers (http://www.ratswd.de/en/data-infrastructure/rdc). Meanwhile the number of international users is increasing. Among them are the US American Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the Czech Social Science Data Archive (CSDA, http://archiv.soc.cas.cz/en) but also African Research Centres such as the INDEPTH Network (http://www.indepth-network.org/), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC, http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en), the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI, http://data.ihi.or.tz/index.php/catalog/), and others.

The general conditions and requirements for the DOI registration are outlined in a policy (http://www.da-ra.de/en/about-us/da-ra-policy/). Moreover, the workflow and all responsibilities in the registration process are agreed upon via a service level agreement. This encompasses questions regarding quality and persistence control (data and metadata), copyright, versioning, availability of the service and its functionalities. Based on the best practice of DataCite, da|ra developed specific best practice guidelines and recommendations of its own.

Recently, the team has begun to develop da|ra towards becoming an international search network for research data. Funded by the German Research Foundation, the new service gesisDataSeach (http://datasearch.gesis.org/start) aims at the development of a central search index on the basis of da|ra metadata and additional external sources. By continuing registration activities and by including references to non-registered research data, the content of the database will be expanded significantly. Furthermore, data references of other relevant international data providers will be integrated in the da|ra search index. For data providers, gesisDataSearch offers two benefits. On the one hand, registering with da|ra gives their data a greater visibility. On the other hand, they have the opportunity to reuse the da|ra metadata within their own information services. Secondary data users firstly benefit from the possibility to search distributed holdings in one place and secondly from several value-added services that allow for the individual search, use and management of data references. As a holistic project, da|ra aims at developing an integrated service for both data providers and secondary data users by focusing on the development of co-operations, the automation of processes, international connectability, reusability, and sustainability of all its components.

Furthermore, the team is involved in the development and application of the PID Policy in the framework of CESSDA.

Producer Relations and Outreach

The team Producer Relations and Outreach links the Data Archive for the Social Sciences with data producers and data depositors. It serves to support data archiving as well as to provide customized data services, comprising data acquisition and CESSDA Training. Data acquisition acquires quantitative social science research data and supports researchers in data archiving, data documentation, DOI registration, and in answering related legal questions. CESSDA Training is a permanent entity of the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA ERIC) to promote high data quality and data sharing. It offers training and consulting in the fields of research data management and digital preservation.

International Surveys

The team International Surveys is responsible for data integration, data processing and data documentation for a set of important international comparative survey programs to which GESIS contributes continuously. Currently, these programs are: The Comparative Survey of Electoral Systems (CSES), the Eurobarometer, the European Values Study (EVS), the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and the PIREDEU/European Election Study. Occasionally, further comparative surveys, such as the Neighbourhood Barometer conducted by the European Commission, are supported in terms of data processing and data provision.

The team is part of the Research Data Center (RDC) International Survey Programs which also includes staff members of the GESIS department Social Monitoring and Social Change, involved in data collection processes.

RDC staff supports the survey programs’ principal investigators in terms of planning research designs and data management to facilitate subsequent data processing and secondary use of the data. Therefore, staff members are involved in the relevant committees and working groups of the corresponding project consortia. The collected data is standardized, harmonized, comprehensively documented and checked in consultation with the principal investigators, and is finally offered for secondary use via the data archive’s distribution systems.

The survey data maintained by the team are deployed to thousands of users a year for research and teaching. In 2016, more than 38,000 data downloads were recorded.

Team members are actively conducting research on a broad range of substantive and methodological issues in the fields of Political Science and sociology, focusing on international comparability. Information on research and projects conducted by the team is available on the respective member pages.

National Surveys

The primary task of the team National Surveys is the high-quality processing and documentation of data generated by national reference studies in the social sciences. Major work packages are, for example, ALLBUS (Allgemeine Bevölkerungsumfrage der Sozialwissenschaften) and GLES (German Logitudinal Election Study). For these and other programs, the team produces ready-to use-data sets and extensive documentation materials, like Variable Reports or English language documentation materials, as well as added-value products such as cumulative data sets. Additionally, the team is responsible for the management of the research data centers RDC ALLBUS and RDC Elections. Apart from GLES, RDC Elections hosts a wide array of other election studies. Most notably, it is responsible processing and distributing the series Politbarometer by Foschungsgruppe Wahlen, for which it provides full documentation and prepares cumulative data sets. Research activities within the team focus on political sociology, the sociology of religion, value research and general demographic change.

Data Linking and Data Security

Responding to a growing demand from researchers, the team Data Linking and Data Security was formed to develop and provide innovative data linking and data security services for research data. Today, it is a leader in its key objective of linking existing survey data with context, temporal, geospatial and social media data to support investigations into topics such as comparative and multi-level questions of social change. Internally developed open source tools, such as CharmStats, support harmonization of variables, and the portal histat enables access to long time series data. The team also operates the Secure Data Center, which provides opportunities to use disclosive data in a safe environment. Looking forward, the team currently works on creating secure remote access solutions or virtual research environments to enable collaborative work with data at different security levels and from various sources. While digital technologies have greatly expanded opportunities for linking data from various sources to develop new research strategies, the increased capacity for data linking has also brought into renewed focus questions of data protection and data security. By integrating expertise in the domains of data linking and data security, the team supports the Data Archive’s mission of promoting research by developing infrastructures and services that address data providers’ and researchers’ needs.