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Data protection

Establishing and consolidating data protection standards in the social, educational, behavioural, and economic sciences


For a long time, the German Data Forum has made a name for itself in questions of data protection for research data. Data protection was a particular focus of the RatSWD´s work between 2011 and 2017. The Consortium for the Social, Behavioural, Educational, and Economic Sciences (KonsortSWD) builds on this expertise and brings it into the National Data Infrastructure (NFDI), for example through the ELSA section.
Due to its pioneering role, the German Data Forum is an important contact and driving force in the establishment and consolidation of standards for both research and research-funding institutions with regard to data protection (see DFG). To this end, the RatSWD, as a trustworthy partner, is in continuous exchange with relevant stakeholders, as reliable and sustainable solutions can only be found through dialogue.
When processing microdata, it is necessary to continuously deal with data protection issues. Microdata are indispensable as a basis for meaningful and innovative research, especially in the social, behavioural and economic sciences. Numerous legal requirements must be fulfilled for data protection-compliant research in the related disciplines.

In the area of conflict between data protection and research, the RatSWD addresses the growing technical and legal challenges within the German and European legal frameworks. The design of an infrastructure that enables the provision of research data to the scientific community in compliance with data protection is a central task of the RatSWD.
Closely linked to the legal issues of data protection are questions of research ethics, since even legally permissible research activities do not address all relevant ethical concerns.


Handouts & Recommendations

Publications in the RatSWD Working Paper Series on the topic of data protection

Press releases


  • Statement on safeguarding the confidentiality of research data and the RatSWD’s proposal to include a purpose limitation clause for research data in the Federal Data Protection Act and the corresponding provisions in the state data protection laws (February 2021) [German]
  • Statement of the RatSWD on the EU Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications, in particular on Articles 8 and 16 (November 2017)
  • Statement on the draft of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on the adaptation of the First and Tenth Book of the German Social Code (SGB I and SGB X) to the EU GDPR as part of the association participation (April 2017)
  • Participation in the joint statement of non-university research institutions on the federal government’s draft bill. At the same time, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) introduced the recommendation on the legal anchoring of research data centres into the legislative process. (February 2017)
  • Statement by the RatSWD on the revised draft of the DSAnpUG-EU of the Federal Ministry of the Interior in the context of association participation (November 2016)
  • Statement by the RatSWD on safeguarding innovative research in the social and economic sciences in the EU GDPR (August 2015) [German]
  • Statement by the RatSWD on selected points of the current draft of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (February 2015) [German]
  • Statement by the RatSWD on the current status of the EU data protection reform and the open letter from Science Europe (August 2014) [German]

Working Groups

  • Editorial group “Data protection handout” (2016)
    Objective: Development of a handout on the topic of best practice data protection
  • EU Data Protection Reform Working Group (2011-2014)
    Objective: long-term monitoring of the European and national legislative process in the context of the EU data protection reform and rapid response to political developments
  • Working Group on Data Protection and Qualitative Social Research (2011-2014)
    Objective: To improve the subsequent utilisation of qualitative data.


Further Information