Social Science Data Management: Home
Welcome to the social science data management subject guide! Social science data might take the form of ethnographic notes, surveys, interview transcripts, audio and video files, social/mass media, economic indicators, or government records. They may be physical or digital, big or small, uniform or varied. Whatever their form, data are the evidence for your research findings, and their proper management is critical to good research practices. This subject guide is meant to guide you through some of the most important aspects of data management. Look at separate tabs or click on the below links for information on:
While many of the resources, repositories, and tools in this subject guide are geared toward the social sciences, the underlying principles will be useful to anyone managing research data. Please feel free to explore this guide and contact me if you have any additional questions about data management at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Motivations Behind Data Management and Sharing
Why Manage Data?
Organizing your data, backing them up, and documenting them in detail ensures that you will not waste time later searching for, recovering, and deciphering your data in the future. Don't assume you will remember every step of your research. Document the process for your future self because your past self doesn't answer email!
Standardizes practices on your research team
Don't make every individual on your project develop his or her own way of managing data. From having a description standard that everyone uses to a common understanding of how data is stored, standardized data management practices on a project ensure that everyone will be able to locate and understand data collected from anyone on your team, even after they graduate or move on to another institution!
Meets grant requirements
Many funding agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health are requiring data management plans as part of grant proposals. Several funding agencies and journals are also requiring open data sharing for funding and publication. Managing your data ensures that you are prepared to share your data in a way that makes it broadly available and understandable to other researchers. (See tabs for "Creating Data Management Plans" and "Accessing and Sharing Data")
Promotes responsible research
Good data management enables a researcher to fulfill their commitment to responsible research by making their research repeatable, reproducible, and replicable. An article is not sufficient for other scientists to validate and build upon your research. Data and documentation are also necessary.
Enables new discoveries
Well-managed and openly available data opens the doors to new discovery. When other scientists can use your data, they can ask new questions of your data that you may not have even imagined. Openly available data can be used for comparative and longitudinal research and can even be used as a training tool for younger scientists.
Makes the results of publicly funded research publicly available
Research is often funded by taxpayers through state and federal agencies and institutions and a growing sentiment is that this funding should be leveraged for the public good. Like government documents that are openly available by default (with obvious national security and privacy exceptions), data collected with public monies should also be accessible by the public.