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Strategic Agenda 2014–2017

The German Data Forum has developed a strategic agenda for improving the data infrastructure in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. It gives an overview of our permanent activities such as mediating between empirical researchers and data producers, and details our activities in the current appointment period (2014-2017). Key activities include data access for researchers, research ethics, the Census 2021, coordination of German panel studies, and the Big Data debate.

Permanent Tasks

  • Monitoring of legal developments with regard to data provision on the national and international level
  • Cooperation and coordination with national, European, and international stakeholders such as the German Council for Information Infrastructures (RII, Rat für Informationsinfrastrukturen) and the Research Data Alliance (RDA)
  • Follow up on past recommendations issued by the German Data Forum
  • Regular assessment of new technological developments such as virtual research environments
  • Organisation of special events: 10th anniversary celebration of the German Data Forum in 2015; 7th Conference for Social and Economic Data (KSWD) in 2017

Data Access

1  Acess to official statistics (Funding and fee regulation)
The current fee regulation for accessing data from the National Statistical Office challenges data users and data providers. This issue is to be resolved jointly in cooperation with representatives of both sides.

  • Format: Create a working group; possibly host a workshop
  • Timeframe: Permanent task until a solution is found

2  Education data
Researchers from different disciplines have criticized the limits of access to education micro data. Related topics of discussion include the availability of core datasets on pupils and the availability of federal state identifiers in datasets.

  • Format: Meetings with data producers; issue recommendation, if required
  • Timeframe: Beginning in spring 2015, completion by 2017

3  Access to administrative health data
Various institutions including the German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI), public health insurance providers, and the Federal Ministry of Health have comprehensive data from the health care system that are available to researchers at best with substantial restrictions. In compliance with data protection regulations, the German Data Forum seeks to make these sensitive data available to researchers, following the model of the German Pension Insurance and the Federal Employment Agency.

  • Format: Meet with representatives of the institutions and discuss the options, possibly host a workshop; implement data provision strategies. The German Data Forum will generate an “inventory” of the available data and formulate recommendations.
  • Timeframe: Beginning in spring 2015; completion by the end of 2016

4  Access to microdata from ministries and governmental departments
Many federal ministries have extensive administrative data as well as survey data that should be made available to researchers.

  • Format: Following initial assessment, preliminary talks about data access options, possibly workshops; implement data provision strategies. The German Data Forum will generate an “inventory” of the available data and formulate recommendations.
  • Timeframe: Preparations started in December 2014; completion by the end of 2016

Research ethics

The debate surrounding ethical considerations in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences in Germany with regard to data access, data provision, and data storage lags behind international standards and the standards of other disciplines. Also, it does not meet the demands of science and society. Pending tasks include the preparation of guidelines for ethics committees, and recommendations on standards for respondents’ informed consent and data linkage.

  • Format: Working group will develop recommendations
  • Timeframe: Beginning in spring 2015; Completion by the end of 2015/beginning of 2016

Advancing the data infrastructure

1  Accreditation
The rules and criteria for the accreditation of research data centers (RDCs) will be discussed and revised in light of past experience, new developments, and a possible re-accreditation process in the near future.

  • Format: Joint working group of the German Data Forum and the Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI) will prepare a report; German Data Forum will adopt procedural guidelines
  • Timeframe: Beginning in December 2014, preliminary report in April 2015, completion in spring 2016

2  Reporting system: RDCs and Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI)
Research data centers (RDCs) deliver annual key figures to the Standing Committee Research Data infrastructure (FDI) in their annual reports. These figures should be examined regarding their informative value. The aim is to gain reliable and long-term information on the RDCs’ activities.

  • Format: Joint working group of the German Data Forum and the Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI) will prepare a report; the German Data Forum will adopt procedural guideline
  • Timeframe: Beginning in spring 2015; preliminary report December 2015; enactment in spring 2016

3  Evaluation and re-accreditation
To date the German Data Forum has continuously accredited additional research data centers (RDCs) without evaluating their relevance and impact. It should be examined how standards, evaluations, and guidelines for re-accreditation could benefit the German research data infrastructure. Criteria are to be developed and established.

  • Format: Joint working group of the German Data Forum and the Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI) will prepare a report; the German Data Forum will adopt procedural guidelines
  • Timeframe: Beginning in spring 2015; preliminary report in summer 2015; enactment in spring 2016

4  Harmonization: web, documentation, output control
Many operative tasks are a challenge for all research data centers (RDCs). Their efficiency could be increased by harmonizing standards, work tasks, documentation and operational procedures to ensure data protection.

  • Format: Joint working group of the German Data Forum and the Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI) will prepare a report; the German Data Forum will adopt procedural guidelines
  • Timeframe: Beginning in summer 2015; final report in spring 2016, enactment in summer 2016

5  Metastructures: Data access and RDC landscape
Main issues are the improvement of user support with regard to finding data, and the design of future structures of the research data infrastructure. Information services and ways to strengthen cooperation between research data centers (“RDC in RDC”) will be re-examined.

  • Format: Joint working group of the German Data Forum and the Standing Committee Research Data Infrastructure (FDI) will prepare a report; German Data Forum will issue recommendations
  • Timeframe: Beginning December 2015; final report in summer 2016; completion in December 2016

Census 2021

In light of past experiences (national and international) and new methodological developments, the Census 2011 – especially the data collection process – will be subject to evaluation. The aim is to identify potential for improvement in order to support the legislative process and the preparation of the Census 2021.

  • Format: Working group, possibly international workshop
  • Timeframe: Beginning in early 2015; workshop at the end of 2015; completion mid-2016

Coordination of Panel Studies

Numerous panel studies are conducted in Germany. It is necessary to discuss the future landscape of panel data studies and the specific challenges concerning quality standards, methodological research on data linkage and German survey institutes. An “inventory” of existing panel studies focusing on status, funding, prospects, and sustainability will form the basis for this discussion.

  • Format: A working group will develop recommendations building on past assessments
  • Timeframe: Beginning mid-2015, completion by the end of 2016

Relevance of Big Data for scientific research

The German Data Forum seeks to contribute to the debate on big data. It will trace current developments and examine their significance for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. Main topics of debate include the quality of big data, the relevance of big data for research, documentation of big data, and access to big data.

  • Format: Main subject of the anniversary celebration event in 2015; possibly international workshop
  • Timeframe: 2016/2017