Publishing qualitative research datasets

Publication of research data in an openly available digital archive gives many researchers pause for consideration. This is especially true when the data includes sensitive information about people. Finding the balance between making research visible and protecting personal data can seem difficult, which is why we would like to present some advice on ways to archive and share data generated by qualitative research projects that enables the sharing of information while protecting sensitive personal data.

Advice to those who wish to publish data from qualitative research studies


Deleting and anonymizing: There are ways ti archive portions of the data in a way which does not jeoparize personal data protection. Anonymized data cannot be tracked back to an individual and therefore is in compliance with personal data protection regulations. A dataset is anonymized when the key that connects the data to the identities of the participants has been deleted and the transcription of any interview materials has been redacted to remove any identifiyng material (such as gender, age and hometown). Rembember that audio recording of voices, including distorted voices, and video recordings are considered personal data in and of themselves and must be deleted according to the information provided to the study's participants in the NSD consent form they have been provided. 

Good metadata: By publishing good metadata (metadata= data about data) and other background information about the dataset you can make it easy for your data to be cited and reused while minimozing the risk of the data being misinterpreted or misused. If you have a dataset that cannot be published openly you can still puiblish metadata where you describe the project, the methodology that was used (including data collection and analyzing techniques), the type of data that was collected, and other information about the data without revealing anything about the data itself. Additional metadata and contact information to those responcible for the data can be included in a ReadMe file which is attached to the metadata.

Other research data: Not all daatsets can be sufficiently anonymized, which makes it impossible for them to be openly published. However you can still possess materials which can be defined as research data and is worthy of beeing archived in an open archive. 

These can include, but are not limited to

  • The survey provided to the participants
  • The interview guide used in the project
  • Notes that do not include personal information or identifying background variables
  • ReadMe file

Visibility: By publishing data and/or matadata in USN RDA your dataset will be indexed in several international academic search enginees, databases and registers. It is therefor recommended (or in some cases, required) that contact information is provided when the data or metadata is published. This allows other researchers who may be interested in learning more aboiut the data to contact those responsible for generating it. It might also open a door for a new cooperation or partnership! 






Examples of published datasets

Here you'll find a selection of data sets published in USN RDA that ahow what open archiving of research data from qualtitative research projects can contain.