Qualitative data sharing

The Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods Inquiry at Syracuse University (only a few hours away from McGill!) hosts a well known Summer Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. I recently found out that the center also houses a qualitative data repository (QDR). The topic of whether or not to share qualitative data has come up in brownbag discussions in the past. Undoubtedly there are drawbacks to sharing qualitative data. But the website of the QDR outlines some interesting rationales for qualitative data sharing. It states:

QDR provides leadership and training in—and works to develop and publicize common standards and practices for—managing, archiving, sharing, reusing, and citing qualitative data. QDR hopes to expand and improve the use of qualitative data in the evaluation of research, in scholarly production, and in teaching.

Qualitative data are used by social scientists to advance a range of analytical, interpretive, and inferential goals. Yet in the United States, traditionally such data have been used only once: social scientists collect them for a particular research purpose, and then discard them. The lack of a data-sharing custom is due in part to an infrastructure gap – the absence of a suitable venue for storing and sharing qualitative data.

QDR hopes to help to fill this gap. First, the repository expands and eases access to qualitative social science data. This access empowers research that otherwise would not be conducted, and promotes teaching and learning about generating, sharing, analyzing, and reusing qualitative data. Further, the repository contributes to making the process and products of qualitative research more transparent. This increased openness facilitates the replication, reproduction, and assessment of empirically based qualitative analysis. Finally, by increasing researcher visibility, the repository induces intellectual exchange, promoting the formation of epistemic communities and serving as a platform for research networks and partnerships.

It will be interesting to see if the data sharing in qualitative research will become seen as a best practice as it increasingly is in quantitative research.

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