Advice, support, cooperation: Qualiservice – the Research Data Center

Ethnographic material is usually unique and can have a documentary character. Therefore, long-term archiving that enables subsequent uses should be regularly considered - even if a large part of the material cannot be made publicly accessible without restriction for legal reasons and/or ethical considerations.


In the FID SKA, we have been working together with Qualiservice – the Data Service Center at University of Bremen since 2019 to establish an appropriate archiving environment. To this end, the existing infrastructures and services that Qualiservice has developed primarily for data from qualitative interview studies are being expanded so that material from ethnographic research can also be professionally archived and re-used under controlled conditions.

Qualiservice is a scientific institution that emerged from social science research projects and initiatives, and employs social scientists and currently one anthropologist, who are trained in this field. Qualiservice uses the technical infrastructure of Pangaea, an environmental science data centre operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, MARUM) at University of Bremen.

Research data archived at Qualiservice are generally not freely accessible on the web. Metadata are accessible and searchable, and a persistent Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is assigned.

You can find an example metadata record here

With regard to the use of archived data and materials, Qualiservice offers staggered access depending on the sensitivity of data or their degree of anonymisation. This includes so-called scientific use files, which can be downloaded via a link after registration, but also material that can only be viewed in the so-called safe room, i.e. on site in the data archive. The respective protection status is determined together with the researcher in the process of handing over material to Qualiservice.

Qualiservice advises researchers during the application process and supports them in preparing their data for archiving. Issues such as the selection of suitable material, the contextualisation of data or anonymisation are addressed. On the Qualiservice website you will find numerous tips and handouts on the services and procedures, as well as workshops for researchers that are offered regularly.

Archiving research material with Qualiservice is not free of charge. Funding can or should usually be applied for when applying for external funding.

If you are planning to archive research material, we recommend that you contact the Qualiservice – the Data Service Center as early as possible.

Finding repositories

Institutional data repositories, such as those of universities, are often less suitable for archiving ethnographic material because they pursue Open Access strategies and only allow embargoes for a few years, or because they lack the resources for the necessary technical infrastructure, support services and data curation. Nevertheless, there are generic and specific data repositories, especially in an international context that may be suitable for archiving your material.

For example, the Registry of Research Data Repositories, service offers a worldwide search for research data repositories with currently around 2,000 entries.