Session 12

12. Digitization and Infrastructuring of Qualitative Research – On the Debate about the Potentials and Risks of Archiving and Re-Using Qualitative Research Data

Today, data is largely digital. This also applies to qualitative research. Interviews, for example, are recorded as digital audio files and are no longer typed out with a typewriter but transformed into digitized objects during transcription. Audio-visual data today, for another example, is generally digital. Digital data can be digitally processed in many ways due to the intraactivity of the technology. Software for qualitative research data facilitates the processing and analysis of most data types. In addition to transcription, annotation, categorization and explication of research data, the potential for sustainability of digital data has recently come to the foreground, also in the field of qualitative research. Suitable research data or their digitized copies can now be shared efficiently thanks to the currently accelerated development and expansion of infrastructures for archiving and re-using of research data, such as specialized (partly web-based) research data centers (RDC). Against this background, a culture of data sharing is being promoted. In this context, the potential of the new infrastructures is increasingly being emphasized foremost in research policy and by funding agencies. The benefits for individual researchers (e.g., visibility and support in research data management) as well as the entire research community (e.g., traceability and accumulation of reusable data corpora for research and teaching) are named here. However, re-use, opening and sharing data as part of the research data management (RDM), is more than a technical issue. Rather, ethical, methodological and research strategy aspects play an important role in the evaluation of RDCs in the various communities of qualitative research. The ethnographic research paradigm is crucial here, which has significantly influenced the development of qualitative research methods and whose principles are diametrically opposed to tailoring qualitative RDM to the standardization of quantitative research. With this in mind, the risks of infrastructuring qualitative research are widely discussed in the research communities. These include fears that the freedom of research could be restricted, and that qualitative research could be influenced by non-scientific aspects (e.g., towards fields where sensitive data is not collected), as well as the general methodological criticism of the reusability of qualitative research data and the epistemological value of secondary analyses in qualitative research. Given that the development and establishment of appropriate research data infrastructures in many countries is now so far advanced that it is less a question of whether research data should be re-used in qualitative research, but rather of how and under what conditions, we would like to take up and continue the current debate with you. We welcome contributions that approach the question of the potential and risks of archiving and re-using of qualitative research data from a methodological, practical or science research perspective.