Information and discussion

Debates and questions, positions and reading material

Research Data Management

The term research data management (RDM) is used to discuss how the exchange of research data and materials can be made as free as possible and what preparations are necessary for this already during the research process.

One goal is to establish sustainable research data infrastructures that allow research data to be stored permanently in trustworthy repositories and thus enable further use - not least because research funders are increasingly demanding this. RDM is thus not only related to the actions of researchers, but also includes organisational and infrastructural measures.

'Data' in the Anthropologies

In general, ‘research data’ are digital data that are generated in thecourse of scientific research, regardless of whether they are obtained through observation, experimentation, simulation, interviewing, source research, digitisation or other means. With regard to ethnographic research, but also to other approaches in the humanities and social sciences, it is not always clear what ‘research data’ means.

Due to their contextuality, and the personal involvement of the researcher and his or her relationships with interlocutors as an essential characteristic and prerequisite of many field research projects, it is debated whether someone should speak of ‘data’ at all, or ‘data’ from ethnographic field research can be adequately described with common concepts and categories such as primary data and secondary data, raw data, hard data and soft data, thin and thick, or even tiny data. In German-speaking research, therefore, the term ‘research material’ is often preferred.


The FAIR principles aim to make research data management sustainable with regard to research and technical infrastructures. Data and materials should be processed and stored in such a way that they can be re-used by others. FAIR stands for:
Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable.

Detailed information on the GoFAIR initiative and the implementation of FAIR can be found, for example, at

The FAIR principles thus focus on features of data and materials that can facilitate data exchange, but leave out ethical issues, power asymmetries or even historical contexts.

The Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) therefore articulated the so-called CARE Principles for the handling of indigenous research data as a supplement to the FAIR Principles, which are also suitable for understanding ethical issues in a comprehensive sense as essential for data archiving and re-use. CARE stands for:
Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics.

Closely related to CARE are the ‘Traditional Knowledge Labels’, which are intended to support the labelling of data and material from indigenous communities in archives and to mark possible restrictions on access and use of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

For an example of use with numerous additions and detailed metadata about the archived object, see Library of Congress, Washington: Passamaquoddy War song and Trading song.

Law and Ethics

The dialogical production of data and material, which is usually understood as co-production in ethnographic field research, requires a comprehensive examination of complex issues such as ownership and the need for protection, but also the extent and scope to which material can be passed on to third parties. Due to the enormous heterogeneity of fields and accesses, formal standardised instructions for action are not possible. Rather, continuous reflection and consideration of the handling of data in the respective research context and under the conditions of the concerned field are required.

The requirements of data protection laws for scientific work with and archiving of personal data are an essential basis for this. The protection needs of entire groups of people are not covered by this.

Informed Consent

An important instrument of data protection is the so-called informed consent. It includes a comprehensive explanation of the research partners, about the aim and purpose of data collection, processing and archiving, contains information about the legal basis, names the persons responsible, and so on. As a rule, the written documented (i.e. also: signed) form is favoured; alternatively, audio/visual forms are also recommended.

Both may not be feasible in certain scenarios and situations of field research. And also in principle, ‘consent’ is conceived rather as a dynamic, situation-dependent and unfinished social process. Consent must accordingly be negotiated and stabilised in all phases of the research.

It therefore seems necessary to work out alternative or even staged procedures of consent.

Positions of the professional associations

The professional societies of the anthropological disciplines have formulated positions on the handling of research data. These papers are an important reference when applying for research projects.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (dgv): Positionspapier zur Archivierung, Bereitstellung und Nachnutzung von Forschungsdaten (pdf)

German Anthropological Association (GAA): DGSKA-Positionspapier zum Umgang mit ethnologischen Forschungsdaten (pdf)
GAA Position Paper on the Handling of Anthropological Research Data (pdf)

Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF): SIEF statement on Data Management (pdf)

European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA): EASA’s Statement on Data Governance in Ethnographic Projects (pdf)

The further expert discussion is documented, for example, in:

"Beiträge zum Forum „Forschungsdatenmanagement“, Zeitschrift für Volkskunde (116) 1/2020

Hansjörg Dilger, Peter Pels, Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner: Guidelines for Data Management and Scientific Integrity in Ethnography. In: Ethnography 20 (2019) 1, 4-7.

Peter Pels et al: Data management in anthropology: the next phase in ethics governance? In: Social Anthropology 26 (2018), 391-413.

Alberto Corsín Jiménez (2018): A Data Governance Framework for Ethnography.

Selected Literature

Anthropology / Ethnography and RDM

Andrew Asher, Lori M. Jahnke (2013): Curating the Ethnographic Moment. In: Archive Journal.

Barbara Alge (2019): Forschungsdatenmanagement in der Musikethnologie. Universitätsverlag Hildesheim; Hildesheim u.o.: Olms.

Sabine Imeri (2018): Order, archive, share. Research data in the ethnological disciplines. In: Journal for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis (JEECA), vol. 3, issue 2/2018, pp. 215–240.

Elisabeth Huber (2019): Affektive Dimensionen von Forschungsdaten, ihrer Nachnutzung und Verwaltung. Working Paper SFB 1171 Affective Societies 01/19. https://refubium.fu‐

David Zeitlyn (2000): Archiving Anthropology. In: FQS. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 2001 (3).

Qualitative Research and RDM

Isabel Steinhardt u.o. (2020): Das Öffnen und Teilen von Daten qualitativer Forschung: eine Handreichung. (Weizenbaum Series, 6). Berlin: Weizenbaum
Institute for the Networked Society - The German Internet Institute.


Rosie Higman, Daniel Bangert, Sarah Jones (2019): Three camps, one destination: the intersections of research data management, FAIR and Open. Insights, 32(1):18.

Stephanie Carroll Rainie, (2019): Issues in Open Data: Indigenous data sovereignty. Zenodo.

Stephanie Russo Carroll, et al. (2020): The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. Data Science Journal, 19(43), 1-12.

Law and Ethics in RDM

Anne Lauber-Rönsberg, Philipp Krahn, Philipp, Paul Baumann: Gutachten zu den rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen des Forschungsdatenmanagements (short version), 12.07.2018.
DataJus_Kurzfassung_Gutachten_12-07-18.pdf?lang=de&set_language=de [20.01.2021]

Louise Corti, Libby. Bishop (2020): Ethical Issues in Data Sharing and Archiving. In: Ron Iphofen (ed.): Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, Cham, 403-426.

Hella von Unger (2018): Forschungsethik, digitale Archivierung und biografische Interviews. In: Helma Lutz, Martina Schiebel, Elisabeth Tuider (ed.): Handbuch Biographieforschung. Wiesbaden, 681-693.

Hella von Unger, Hansjörg Dilger, Michael Schönhuth (2016): Ethikbegutachtung in der sozial- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Forschung? Ein Debattenbeitrag aus soziologischer und ethnologischer Sicht. RatSWD Working Paper 259, Berlin.

Data Concept

Jakob Voß (2013): Was sind eigentlich Daten? LIBREAS. Library Ideas, 23.

Fabian Cremer, Lisa Klaffki, Timo Steyer  (2018). Der Chimäre auf der Spur: Forschungsdaten in den Geisteswissenschaften. O-Bib. Das Offene Bibliotheksjournal 5(2), 142-162.

RDM in the FID

The FID Social and Cultural Anthropology has been working on the topic of research data management since 2016. Following surveys on the handling of research data in the ethnological subjects, we are primarily active in two fields of work:

Firstly, the FID accompanies and supports professional discussions and sees itself as a mediator of infrastructural and science policy debates and developments - such as the establishment of the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) - in the subject communities. This process is supervised and driven forward from the Berlin location.

Secondly, we are working on possibilities and procedures for archiving and, if necessary, making available for re-use, research data from primarily qualitative-ethnographic research projects. In connection with this, a consulting and training service for ethnographic researchers is to be developed. This work will be carried out at Qualiservice – the Data Service Center at the University of Bremen.

Both fields are being worked on in close exchange with the German Society for Folklore (dgv) and the German Anthropological Association (GAA) as well as individual research projects.