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extending the reach and impact of qualitative data
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ESRC Demonstrator Scheme

The ESRC's invitation for applications to its 500,000 Demonstrator Scheme for Qualitative Data Sharing and Research Archiving scheme is available in full at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/opportunities/Commissioning_updates/index17.aspx

Part of the full specification is reproduced below:

1. Introduction and Summary

1.1 The ESRC invites full applications to its Demonstrator Scheme for Qualitative Data Sharing and Research Archiving. The aim of the scheme is to develop and promote innovative methodological approaches to the archiving, sharing, re-use and secondary analysis of qualitative research and data. The Demonstrator scheme will explore a range of new models for increasing access to qualitative data resources, and for extending the reach and impact of qualitative studies. The scheme will also aim to disseminate good practice in qualitative data sharing and research archiving. This part of the ESRC's initiative to increase the UK resource of highly skilled researchers, and to fully exploit the distinctive potential offered by qualitative research and data.

The sharing and re-analysis of qualitative data are important for a number of reasons. If data are shared over time, it may be possible to build up a longitudinal picture of social change and process. If data are shared contemporaneously, researchers are more likely to avoid 'reinventing the wheel', and to gain insight from other approaches to similar research issues. Also, sharing data ensures that they are exploited as fully as possible, and helps to avoid the destruction of valuable material. Finally, there is a significant opportunity for 'scaling up' from small qualitative studies through data sharing, to extend the reach of qualitative research.

1.2 The establishment of the Scheme is prompted by a number of factors:

  • Qualitative research tends to be conducted in small scale, local and context-specific studies, and often the work of individual researchers or small teams. Although such studies are often highly valuable, their impact may be limited by their specificity and the opportunity to bring together small scale or localised data sets that are complementary, contrasting or have historical significance, and to pursue common analytical questions across them, is only occasionally realised. When it is the process is often fortuitous and may not be underpinned by a systematic methodological approach.
  • The value of sharing and re-using and re-analysing qualitative data sets is seriously under-exploited outside specialised and discipline-based networks, and in consequence the potential for 'scaling up' qualitative research, especially in its engagement with policy and practice, remains relatively untried.
  • The e-science programme and other current infrastructure developments create the potential to develop social science as a data intensive science. It is timely to anticipate emerging innovations in qualitative methods, including new data forms, sources, possibilities for research archiving and data mining and the potential for increased participation and access.

1.3 Consultation within the social science community points to a need for mechanisms which promote collaboration and data sharing as well as more effective transfer of new methodological practices within the qualitative research community. These mechanisms are seen as complentary to existing archives, potentially enhancing and extending their scope and usefulness.

1.4 Recent reviews have identified a series of issues which are seen to have inhibited the sharing, archiving, re-use and re-analysis of qualitative research and data to date. These include:

  • a range of ethical issues, which inhibit deposition and sharing notwithstanding international progress in the development of protocols and standards. The richness and intensity of the qualitative research process and its consequent data are sometimes seen to raise specific ethical concerns.
  • the challenges posed in dealing with the contextuality of qualitative research and data, when data are re-used, shared or re-analysed.
  • the challenges posed in dealing with the relationality of the research process, and the centrality of the original researcher and research design to the generation of data, when data are re-used, shared or re-analysed in different contexts or by different teams.
  • epistemological and methodological issues in sharing and re-using data generated through different epistemologies, research styles, theoretical approaches, and in relation to different sets of research questions.
  • practical issues in sharing and re-using data of different forms and types.

1.5 The Scheme will commission 5-6 projects to develop methodological and practical approaches to the archiving, sharing, re-use and secondary analysis of qualitative research and data that address these challenges. Links to the work of the Economic and Social Data Service Qualidata, National Centre for Research Methods, the National Centre for e-Social Science, and the Research Methods Programme, will be sought where relevant. The Scheme will invite research user involvement in projects and in an advisory capacity to the Scheme overall, and will promote dissemination and training outcomes. The Scheme funding will be 500,000 over 12-18 months.

2. Scheme Objectives

2.1 The objectives of the Demonstrator Scheme are:

  • To develop new models of qualitative research archiving and data sharing which tackle in innovative ways the epistemological, ethical, methodological and practical challenges raised by the re-use and re-analysis of qualitative material, and which explore ways of improving the quality of contextual information. The models may be of temporary, local or thematic archiving for example, which should complement the Qualidata1 approach, and of new or existing research collaborations (locally, nationally or internationally) to develop innovative approaches to data sharing.
  • In light of the aim to fully exploit qualitative resources, models developed under the scheme will draw primarily on existing qualitative research and data sets of a range of types. They may also involve a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. It is not expected that there will be significant, if any, collection of new data.
  • To encourage researchers to explore the use of stored and shared video, visual and audio data sets, and to promote understanding of the potential benefits and challenges of information and communication and e-science technologies in relation to media shifts and the changing nature of qualitative research.
  • To explore and extend the relationship between qualitative data producers, users and re-users and to demonstrate innovative and effective practice in these domains.
  • To encourage the involvement of non-academic users and potential users of qualitative methods in opportunities to be methodologically innovative and to widen understanding in non-academic communities of the value and uses of qualitative data.
  • To promote innovative ways of speeding the process of adoption of methodological advances in relation to qualitative research archiving, data sharing, re-use and re-analysis, particularly in the transfer of experience between researchers operating in different substantive research areas and national research communities, and in the training of new researchers
  • To encourage networking and interchange among project researchers funded within the Scheme, and dissemination of outcomes to relevant communities.

Web page address: http://quads.esds.ac.uk/about/esrc.asp
12 November 2019