Progress and Problems of Preserving and Providing Access to Qualitative Data for Social Research—The International Picture of an Emerging Culture

Louise Corti


In this paper, I hope to offer a global picture of what is happening in the world of qualitative data archiving. Qualidata is in a strong position to be able to offer this insight as it was the world's first initiative to pioneer preservation of qualitative social science data on a national scale. This was facilitated by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC), Britain's largest sponsor of social science research, implementing a mandatory policy for research grant holders to offer datasets of all kinds created in the course of their research. The policy has been met with both great support and animosity from the research community. In this paper I examine some of the reasons why the concept of sharing qualitative data generates such mixed feelings. Qualidata's work has provided sparks of inspiration to a number of research groups across the world beginning to consider the systematic preservation of qualitative data. Over the past four years we have been approached by embryonic "qualidata" projects for advice on issues surrounding archiving and providing access to qualitative data. Many have used Qualidata procedures as a starting point for developing their own archiving procedures (which were devised initially from a cross-fertilisation of UK Data Archive and traditional archiving procedures). Typically these groups tend to be sociologists, and surprisingly have had little or no contact with the social science Data Archives in their own countries. Furthermore, we are still not aware of any other national funders of social research across the world who have realised the added value that archiving of qualitative data can bring. I hope to provide a quick world tour of progress in the field and then suggest some of the key objectives that I think need to be met in order to achieve a respectable tradition and infrastructure for preserving and re-using qualitative data. I will touch on optimal and cost effective models for qualitative data archiving, discuss issues surrounding the documentation of data, and finally, address the need for meaningful collaboration at the international level, such as by creating a Network for Qualitative Data Archiving (INQUADA).
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs000324


qualitative data; data archives; Qualidata; International networking; data preservation; secondary analysis

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Copyright (c) 2000 Louise Corti

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