The primary focus of the department “Data Archive for the Social Sciences” is providing excellent data service for national and international comparative surveys from the fields of social and political science research. These surveys, which must comply with clearly defined methodological and technical requirements, are archived and processed according to internationally recognized standards and made accessible to the scientifically interested public in a user-friendly manner.
Reference studies such as ALLBUS and other surveys for which there is a large demand are combined into 'study collections' accompanied by special services – frequently in cooperation with the primary researchers or experts. For example, variables are harmonized and standardized in order to facilitate comparisons across time or regional units. Three Research Data Centers have been established in cooperation with the departement „Social Monitoring and Social Change“: for the ALLBUS, for selected international survey programmes and for the extensive series of studies in electoral research.
In addition, this department directs the development of software for data processing, archiving, and analysis as well as for the online-search of data and variables (in cooperation with WTS); it is involved in the formation of international standards, participates in national and international research and development projects, and provides access to relevant German study collections to the international research community. The department contributes to European (Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA)) and international data service networks (International Federation of Data Organizations for the Social Sciences (IFDO)), and acts as the national representative of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in Germany.
User advice is provided on finding relevant data and on data analysis, and researchers are introduced to complex techniques of data analysis in our training seminars.
Substantive and methodological research is continuously carried out in the form of secondary analyses that demonstrate the analytical potential of the archived surveys. Important measurment instruments are tested for their validity and reliability.
The provision of the DOI registration service for Social Science data is the main task of the team. 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 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/central/about), 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 began to advance da|ra towards an international search network for research data. Funded by the German Research Foundation the new service gesisDataSeach aims at the development of a central search index on the basis of da|ra metadata and further 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 on the one hand offers an opportunity to give their data a greater visibility and on the other hand to reuse the da|ra metadata within their own information services. Secondary data users benefit from the possibility to search distributed holdings in one place and from several value-added services that allow for individual search, use and management of data references. The holistic project aims at developing an integrated service for data providers as well as secondary data users by focusing on the development of co-operations, the automation of processes, international connectability, reusability, and sustainability of all its components.
The team is also involved in the development and application of the PID Policy in the framework of CESSDA.
The Data Linking and Data Security Team integrates expertise from across the Data Archive to provide new data linking and security services in response to rapidly growing demand from the research community. The Team combines the former Historical Studies Team with parts of the International Data Infrastructures Team, and assumed operational and strategic responsibilities for the Secure Data Center. It is leading in a key objective of linking existing survey data with temporal (e.g., time series) and geospatial (e.g., geocoded) data to support investigations into topics such as comparative and multi-level questions of social change. The Team also intends to take on the challenge of creating secure remote access solutions or virtual research environments to enable collaborative work to be carried out with data at different security levels and from various sources. Other potential future services include providing access to sensitive data as well as to aggregate and context data. Technologies have greatly expanded opportunities for linking data, however, the capacity to link data may incur security risks. Integrating expertise in these two domains supports the Data Archive’s mission of promoting research by developing infrastructures that address researchers’ needs for linking data in a convenient and secure environment.