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Accreditation by the RatSWD

Quality assurance of the research data infrastructure through accreditation by the German Data Forum (RatSWD)

Accreditation procedure and criteria

In the social, behavioural and economic sciences, a research data infrastructure (FDI) has been successfully established in the form of research data centres (RDCs). The RDCs provide the scientific community with flexible and extensive data access for empirical research, while respecting data protection.

To ensure the quality of the research data infrastructure, the RatSWD and the Committee on Data Access (FDI Committee) have developed minimum standards and criteria for the accreditation of RDCs by the RatSWD. The accreditation criteria focus on the equal treatment of all authorised data users in terms of data access.

For full accreditation by the RatSWD, three mandatory criteria must be met and the operating business of the RDC must exist.

All criteria

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

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

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.

External data users are defined as follows:

  • External data users are not data providers of the requested data.
  • External data users are not employed by the institution of the respective research data center at the time of the data request. Students of a university affiliated with the RDC are considered external data users.
  • External data users are not in a cooperative partnership with the supporting institution or the respective data center in the context of a joint analysis project of the requested data.

Accreditations prior to the start of operating business may be granted subject to reservation – in the form of a provisional accreditation.

Moreover, first-time accreditation requires RDCs to fulfil 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 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.
  • 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 regarding 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.

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