Accountability and transparency bring an enormous benefit to social science research. On the one hand, accountability has become a crucial element in research work because we are experiencing a growing demand for measurable evidence that funds (public or otherwise) allocated to research are spent wisely and efficiently. On the other hand, transparency is more than ever an integral part of contemporary research activity. Open science is becoming the new normal and more and more funders and publishers require or expect researchers to be transparent by making their underlying data, methods and code accessible. Sharing data and other research outputs (code, methods, research instruments such as questionnaires, rich metadata) meets the accountability and transparency agenda as it allows reproducibility of research findings and secondary use.
Both reproducibility and secondary use are very much dependent on how and where these research outputs are made available; this is where data FAIRness comes into play. Migration survey data is a valuable resource for various purposes and stakeholders, which is why ensuring its FAIRness should be a priority.
In March 2020, SSHOC partners collaborated with COST Action 16111 - ETHMIGSURVEYDATA to share SSHOC expertise on how to ensure data FAIRness with participants of the COST Action’s Working group plenary meetings and 2nd Annual Policy Dialogue Conference. To do so, SSHOC organized two sessions – a SSHOC workshop on Data Management and FAIRness of Migration Data and a demonstration of the alpha version of the first component of the EthmigSurveyData Hub service. The sessions were designed to boost the knowledge transfer and data sharing in the field of ethnic and migrant minority (EMM) integration. The whole event brought together over 60 different individuals from the ETHMIGSURVEYDATA community who all work with quantitative survey data and/or EMM integration.
HOW TO GO ABOUT FAIRness OF MIGRATION DATA
Trustworthy, high quality, or simply FAIR data often serves as the cornerstone of accountability and transparency. Anca Vlad, Research Data Services Officer at UK Data Service, shared her tips to make FAIR data a reality for all practitioners.
Anca Vlad sharing useful tips on how to make migration data FAIR
To ensure that data is FINDABLE, look for a globally unique and persistent digital identifier (such as a DOI). This video explains why such identifiers are so important. It is essential, of course, that data is published with an accredited archive or data repository that attributes this unique identifier to your resource. On top of that, make sure to check whether your chosen archive or repository is CoreTrustSeal accredited.
To ensure that data is ACCESSIBLE, (meta)data should be retrievable using an open, universally applicable and standardized protocol. Depending on the content of the data, this protocol would provide information about the access level and terms to obtain the data. Although access restrictions are pretty much the same across data providers (open, safeguarded, or restricted), the process and conditions for obtaining the data can vary across archives/repositories/data publishers. Data, however, does not need to be open to ensure its accessibility. What is essential is that this process of obtaining data is made clear, in plain language for each dataset.
To ensure that data is INTEROPERABLE, the metadata needs to be in specific formats, and use community agreed standards and vocabularies/ontologies, such as the DDI Schema. Specific formats should be respected because digital data is very much software dependent and as such prone to corruption due to the obsolescence of software/hardware. The EMM Survey Registry is a good example as it uses a multitude of machine readable metadata fields (such as scope, region(s), start date, end date of survey, target population etc.) to describe all its datasets.
And finally, to ensure that data is REUSABLE special care should be given to the quality of supporting documentation and metadata, as well as the applicable license. The license should allow the data to be available to the widest possible audience with the widest possible range of uses.
FAIR principles might sound straightforward, but their implementation might not always be so clear. Here are some online resources, that can help you with ensuring FAIRness of your data:
QAMyData – A TOOL THAT MAKES DATA CURATION A PIECE OF CAKE
The workshop also introduced QAMyData – a free, easy-to-use open source tool that provides a health check for numeric data. The tool uses automated methods to detect and report some of the most common problems in survey data: missingness, duplication, outliers and direct identifiers (information that can point to one person in particular such as name, address etc.). Outliers and direct identifiers are of particular concern when sharing data as researchers need to uphold confidentiality agreements. The tool offers a number of configurable tests, categorized by type: file, metadata, data integrity, and identifiers. It can run popular file formats, including SPSS, Stata, SAS and CSV.
Have a look at the presentation slides to learn more about easy data curation.
ETHMIGSURVEYDATA HUB – A SPACE TO ENCOURAGE AND PROMOTE FAIRness
During the Working group plenary meetings and 2nd Annual Policy Dialogue Conference the participants connected and learned from each other through various activities. They also discussed the scientific objectives of ETHMIGSURVEYDATA, i. e., improving production, access, usability, and dissemination of survey data on EMM integration.
Laura Morales introducing the importance of FAIRness of data in EMM Integration studies
Apart from the SSHOC workshop Caring for Sharing, SSHOC activities have also been presented through the demonstration of the EthmigSurveyData Hub. Laura Morales, COST Action Chair and leader of T9.2, and Ami Saji, COST Action member and junior researcher in T9.2, focused their workshop on the EMM Survey Metadata Registry. The Registry is currently in alpha version, and is an integral part of the hub that is being designed to be a user-friendly and intuitive online tool. The idea behind it is allowing individuals to search for and learn about existing quantitative surveys to EMM populations through the survey-level metadata. Individuals will also be able to contribute to the registry (and therefore make it a sustainable and relevant tool for the short and long-term) by adding information (i.e. metadata) about quantitative surveys they have conducted or will be conducting to EMM populations.
To learn more about the Registry, see the presentation slides: Showcase of the Ethnic and Migrant Minorities (EMM) Survey Metadata Registry and Sustainability and updating of the EMM Survey Metadata Registry.
LET’S MAKE THE FUTURE FAIR
Both workshops were particularly instrumental in helping the participants understand why EMM survey data should be made FAIR and how this could be achieved through SSHOC and ETHMIGSURVEYDATA COST Action efforts. The feedback from the participants showed that services such as the EMM Survey Metadata Registry are in demand and the presentations of good practices are crucial if we want to ensure FAIR data processing in the future.
One of the main takeaways of the Caring for sharing workshop was the importance of data sharing for future research, in particular for future historians. It brought to light the lack of data currently available, as well as how inaccessible and fragmented the small amount of data that is currently available is. Historians, present at the workshop, in particular called upon migration researchers to contribute to reference archives.
On May 18, you can participate in a follow-up webinar where you will learn more about data management and FAIR principles applied to EMM data. If you are interested, please register here. In summer 2020, you will be able to test and use the EMM Survey Metadata Registry. Stay tuned for more news on this.
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