Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Reusing qualitative data

           Last week’s Hammersely (2010) reading got me thinking about some issues relating to archiving qualitative social science data. In a study I read regarding data sharing across different academic disciplines, social science disciplines lagged behind almost every other discipline grouping except medicine (Tenopir et al. 2010). Although the study was fairly limited in its scope and the discrepancies in data sharing likely had to do with confidentiality issues involving human participants, it got me thinking about some of the difficulties that might be involved with submitting qualitative data to open data projects.
One of the major justifications for open data is that it allows for the reuse and reinterpretation of shared data. Hammersely (2010) describes the construction process involved with transcribing interviews. He explains that a number of decisions are made which are dependent on the cultural and cognitive understandings of the transcriber (2010, p.560). Kuula (2010) explains that a major concern for qualitative researchers submitting their data for public consumption is a fear of misinterpretation (p.14). Moreover, Kuula points out there is a tendency of original researchers to feel only they can fully understand and interpret qualitative data because of the co-constructed nature of interviews (Kuula, 2010, p.14). Because interview transcriptions can be so selective in what they include (Hammersely, 2010), I wonder if is possible to make all of the decisions and interpretations of the transcriber transparent so that qualitative data can be truly reused?

Hammersely, M. (2010). Reproducing or construction: some questions about transcription in social research. Qualitative Research, 10(5), 553-569.

Kuula, A. (2010). Methodological and ethical dilemmas of archiving qualitative data. IASSIST Quarterly, 34(3), 12-17

Tenopir, C., Allard, S., Douglass, K., Aydinoglu, A. U., Wu, L., Read, E., Frame, M. (2011). Data sharing by scientists: Practices and perceptions. PloS One, 6(6), e21101.

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