Strengthening data-based research in Germany – Position paper of the German Data Forum (RatSWD) for the new legislative period of the German Bundestag
For the 20th legislative period of the German Bundestag, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) calls for better access to (research) data for scientific and research purpose. It does so by defining seven specific fields of action in its recent position paper "Strengthening data-based research in Germany". Profound research data is indispensable for politics, since evidence-based decisions can only be made on the basis of scientific findings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impressively revealed the importance of data-based scientific analyses in times of crises and has clearly shown the deficits in the data landscape in Germany. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) therefore welcomes the strong integration of research into the Data Strategy of the German Federal Government. This strategy must now, however, be concretised and implemented consistently and swiftly.
After one and a half years of the pandemic, important political decisions must be made in the coming years. In addition, to overcome the medical crisis, the pandemic poses considerable economic and social challenges for politics and society. Beyond the pandemic, answers must also be found for challenges such as climate change, demographic developments and distribution issues. Scientific findings based on (research) data can and should support policymakers in this process. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) therefore calls on politicians to strengthen science and research in the 20th legislative period of the German Bundestag through the following measures:
- Granting access to registry and administrative data for scientific purposes
The research clauses proposed in the Data Strategy of the German Federal Government should be implemented consistently in legislative initiatives. The scientific community should be given access to register and administrative data. A research data law would be a strong signal in this regard while reducing the legislative effort required for individual laws.
- Securing the confidentiality of research data
Legal measures are needed to ensure professional confidentiality of research situations as well as to protect vulnerable relationships between researchers and researched persons.
- Involving science in the implementation of a register-based census
In order to be able to determine scientific potential of a register-based census, researchers need access to census and process data. Providing important impulses, they should be closely involved in its planning and implementation.
- Allowing data linkages
There is a need to expand administrative and legal basis for data linkage in order to prevent burdensome duplication of data collection. In this regard, it must also be made easier to use sensitive individual data in a way that complies with data protection law.
- Providing continuous quality assurance and expanding the network of Research Data Centres
With the concept of Research Data Centres (RDC), standards for compliance with quality assurance and data protection are accompanied by user-friendliness and expert advice for data users. Register and administrative data should also be made available through RDC for scientific research.
- Enabling remote access to official statistics data
The German Data Forum (RatSWD) advocates user-friendly, flexible data access. Remote access enables a secure use of sensitive individual data. In order to make this possible for official statistics data as well, the necessary legal changes should be implemented, and the required resources made available.
- Strengthening research data infrastructure
Research funding should promote the re-use of data and strengthen the connectivity of newly collected data to existing data, for example to established panel studies. The corresponding research data infrastructure should be further expanded for this purpose.
The German Data Forum (RatSWD) advises the federal government and the governments in the federal states on expanding and improving the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural and economic sciences since 2004. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) is made up of ten elected representatives from the social, behavioural, and economic disciplines who work together with ten representatives from key data producers.
The German Data Forum (RatSWD) is part of the Consortium for Social, Behavioural, Educational, and Economic sciences (KonsortSWD) in the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). It acts as an institutionalised forum for dialogue between science and data producers, as well as developing recommendations and opinions. It is committed to supporting an infrastructure that enables sciences to have broad, flexible, and secure data access. These data are provided by state, science-based, and private-sector actors. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has currently accredited 39 research data centres (as of February 2021), and encourages their cooperation.