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RatSWD welcomes RfII recommendations: Research data centres strengthen science and data protection

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) welcomes the current recommendations of the RfII on data protection as an important contribution to the political discourse. The research data centres recommended by the RfII have successfully established themselves in the social, behavioural and economic sciences. With accreditation by the RatSWD, they have proven to be a suitable form of data protection-compliant access for research.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has also identified the need to strengthen data protection expertise in scientific practice and has recently published a handout. With a view to the EU data protection reform, the RatSWD recommends a European Advisory Board for the self-organisation of science.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) welcomes the recommendations of the German Council for Information Infrastructures (RfII) on data protection. The dimensions of future-oriented data protection law, “soft” forms of standardisation, skills development and data infrastructures for the empirical sciences addressed by the RfII are also of great importance from the perspective of the RatSWD.

A data infrastructure in the form of research data centres (RDCs) has already been successfully established in the social, behavioural and economic sciences. The accreditation of these RDCs by the RatSWD has proven to be a suitable form of quality assurance that meets the needs of science and data protection in equal measure. The research data centres provide scientists with flexible and comprehensive access to sensitive data. In doing so, the data centres guarantee compliance with data protection with technical and organisational measures. They also offer data users expert advice and a wide range of services.

Strengthening data protection expertise in the empirical social, behavioural and economic sciences and raising awareness of the data protection responsibilities of researchers and research subjects is also an important concern for the RatSWD. It has therefore compiled a handout that summarises the principles and requirements of data protection against the background of both primary and secondary data use in empirical research projects. The RatSWD’s handout on data protection has recently been published and can be obtained in printed form from the RatSWD office or electronically via the RatSWD website.

The importance of self-organisation in the sciences and humanities, as outlined in the RfII’s recommendations, takes on particular significance in light of the EU data protection reform, which will be binding from May 2018. Standardised legal applications and clear (control) responsibilities are crucial for research practice. For this reason, the RatSWD recommended the establishment of an interdisciplinary Scientific Advisory Board at European level during the negotiations on the EU General Data Protection Regulation. This should ensure standardised application practice with codes of conduct and thus facilitate transnational empirical research.

The RatSWD is also monitoring the implementation of these principles in the ongoing national legislative processes. Among other things, it has participated in a joint statement [German] by non-university research institutions on the adaptation of German data protection law to the EU data protection reform. In addition, the RatSWD is committed to enshrining the role of research data centres in law and has made corresponding recommendations in the legislative process for the amendment of the Federal Data Protection Act and the Social Data Protection Act (SGB X).