Data management in Religious Studies
Research data, more than footnotes or glosses
In the European Values Study of 2014 we can see that 62% of the Dutch call themselves religious. What questionnaires are used for this? And is there any relation to the level of education?
The author of an article on 19th-century prophetic fiction argues that apocalypticism in literature was a response to the crisis of faith in that period. How is the selection of texts justified? Is there a collection of texts which a fellow researcher can easily access?
These examples make clear that research data concerning religion can take various forms: from traditional textual resources up to various present-day data, such as YouTube documents, blogs and tweets. For the social scientist or a researcher working with “big data”, it is absolutely essential to manage research data securely right from the start.
Data management plan
A timely start, right at the beginning of the research, will prevent loss of time and data at a later stage. There are various templates for the design of a data management plan (DMP), with checklists of questions. In the Netherlands, DANS and the NWO-DANS-data contracts are often used within the Humanities and Social Sciences. Both deal with questions about the quantity and types of data, the (limits to) availability of data for others and the cost of storing data. DANS provides up to 5GB free storage space to researchers at Dutch universities.
Whether it concerns Christian Communities in Second Life or 16th-century anti-popish prints, in both cases it concerns documents of usually limited practical value because of obsolete software. Loss of data may be prevented by using durable formats. DANS has made a separate booklet (pdf) for social-scientific research, which also treats such subjects as informed consent, encryption and property rights - important in case of interviews.
Researchers who mainly use texts as their source, also tend to create their own datasets, for example a collection of primary texts and archival records about their subject.
Mutual availability and open access
Long-term storage is not forever. In the Netherlands data are stored for at least 5 years (this is mandatory). The data will be made available to other researchers on demand. When exactly they become available is usually determined by the researcher. The researcher in turn also has access to relevant datasets of other researchers.
Datasets for religion can be found in NARCIS under datasets, "religious sciences".
Although research data are rapidly gaining importance in the Humanities, for many researchers it still takes some getting used to. If you have any questions or start-up problems, please contact your information specialist
drs. M.M. (Maaike) van Rossem
M.M.vanRossem@uva.nl | T: 0652567207Go to detailpage