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The decentralised structure of the research data infrastructure is a tried-and-tested way to satisfy the demands of data producers, data users in science and research, and data protection.

Anonymisation and pseudonomisation procedures are but two of a wide range of data protection measures, which include Public Use Files (PUF), Scientific Use Files (SUF), on-site access at research data centres, remote data access (which is widely known as remote execution in Germany), and the generation of synthetic data. These various measures are used according to the data’s sensitivity.

The RatSWD has played a major role in supporting the development of these model solutions. They have led to a surge in accessible research data in the past decade.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has developed standards and criteria for the accreditation of RDCs. Fully operational RDCs need to meet three mandatory criteria (in addition to further information criteria):

  1. Provide at least one data access path
  2. Provide sufficient data documentation
  3. Ensure the long-term availability of the data

All criteria

Research data centres seeking accreditation by the German Data Forum (RatSWD) must meet the three mandatory criteria.

Moreover, the RDC must be fully operational. This criterion is met if the data centre:

  • Has been in operation for at least six months
  • Can provide proof of a minimum of three external data users

Acceptable proof includes data user contracts, or research applications that are based on the analysis of the RDCs data.

Moreover, first-time accreditation requires RDCs to fullfill the following information criteria in order to assess the scope and quality of their operation:

  • Scope and development of the social, behavioural, and economic data provided
  • Method for timely data provision
  • Provision of tools
  • Quality assurance of datasets
  • Data protection safeguards in due consideration of the interests of researchers
  • Service concept
  • Single entity comprising institution and research data centre
  • Provision of all datasets relevant to research
  • Overlap and distinct features compared to existing RDCs
  • Research activities
  • Multiple provision of the same data (multiple hosting, not hosting at multiple sites)
  • Time to process applications
  • Staff
  • Infrastructure development

First-time accreditation procedure by the German Data Forum (RatSWD)

If an institution applies for first-time accreditation of a research data centre, it shall present its data and its current (or planned) activities and services to the Committee for Data Access (FDI Committee). The FDI Committee shall examine the application and submit a recommendation to the German Data Forum.

  • If the applicant RDC is fully operational and meets the three mandatory criteria, accreditation is recommended with immediate effect.
  • If the applicant RDC does not meet the three mandatory criteria, the application is rejected.
  • If the applicant RDC is still in development and not yet fully operational, or if the first-time accreditation application has deficiencies regarding the information criteria, the German Data Forum can recommend provisional accreditation, which is subject to certain obligations.

Provisional accreditation

If the applicant RDC has clear deficiencies with regard to the information criteria, it shall be considered after prior consultation, whether these can be remediated in the short or medium term. If said deficiencies prove difficult to overcome, the German Data Forum reserves the right to grant provisional accreditation until their remediation.

Provisional accreditation may also be issued if the RDC is not yet fully operational, but can provide sufficient proof that it will take up operations and be able to meet the mandatory criteria in a timely manner.

  • In both cases, the RDC is required to issue a statement providing proof of compliance with its obligations within an agreed period. Following positive evaluation, the German Data Forum may go forward with the accreditation of the RDC.

More information