Open data policy

FORS promotes open data and data sharing and secondary data analysis. FORS offers free of charge its archiving services and shares knowledge and expertise with social scientists in Switzerland with respect to all aspects of the production of quantitative data, as well as different aspects of research data management. This includes linking data from different sources.

We offer the interactive online research information and data access portal FORSbase that allows researchers themselves to easily document and deposit their research data (both quantitative and qualitative) for long-term preservation and dissemination. By way of this key tool and related support services, FORS promotes and facilitates research transparency, data sharing, and data re-use in Switzerland and Europe.

FORS is also committed to open access to data and publications. Data and publications resulting from research projects at FORS or with implication of FORS collaborators have to be accessible on the web for free as far as copyright allows for it. The benefits of open data for the social sciences include:

  • Greater transparency in the scientific process
  • More thorough exploitation of existing data and reduced need for new collections
  • More rapid pace of discovery
  • Greater innovation and dissemination of best practices in research
  • Development of new forms of scientific collaboration

Open access to data and publication guidelines

Archival acquisition policy

Data selection and appraisal play an important role in the acquisition of data in any archival setting. The collections policy indicates the principles and criteria by which the archive develops its data collection in order to serve the designated community. The collections policy of DARISS, the data and research information services department of FORS, is flexible and responds to future developments and shifting requirements that will influence the archive’s data collections.

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Data protection policy

FORS does everything possible to provide open and easy access to data, while at the same time protecting the confidentiality of research participants and the rights of the data depositors. We rely on a combination of basic anonymisation techniques (e.g., taking out identifying variables), access eligibility criteria, informed consent among study participants, and end-user contract conditions as a way of ensuring confidentiality. Our practices are in accord with Swiss federal data protection laws.

Protection of quantitative data

Data anonymisation. As a general rule, DARISS, the data and research information services department of FORS, will only give access to datasets that have been anonymised by removal of variables that could allow direct identification of individual participants, such as name and address.

Access eligibility criteria. We will provide access to quantitative data only to individuals affiliated with a research institution (e.g., a university or university of applied science), although unaffiliated researchers can apply for access. Such requests are carefully vetted.

User contract. Researchers may gain access to datasets only after accepting an agreement to use and cite the data in a proper fashion, for scientific research and education within an academic framework, and following typical scientific ethical norms of conduct. Click here to see an example of our standard user contract.

Protection of qualitative data

Informed consent and anonymisation.  DARISS, the data and research information services department of FORS will only release non-fully anonymised qualitative data (audio, video, images, transcriptions) if there has been informed consent by study participants for their data to be used for research purposes and to be shared for secondary analysis. DARISS will in principle, however, give access to fully anonymised text transcriptions without informed consent, since it would be extremely difficult to identify individual study participants. It should be noted though that it is rare to have a text transcription that has been fully and sufficiently anonymised, and DARIS does not provide this service.

Access eligibility criteria. Access to qualitative data is restricted to researchers and students affiliated with a research institution (e.f., a university or university of applied science), although unaffiliated researchers can apply for access. Such requests are carefully vetted. Access is only granted for research projects or teaching purposes, with adequate justification for why the data are needed.

User contract. Before receiving the data, users must accept a user contract legally binding them to specific terms, including proper use, citation, and storage of the data, as well as respect for the confidentiality of individual study participants. All requests for data must be accompanied by a project description and statement of purpose.

For more information on protection and archiving of qualitative data, see our Policy on Archiving qualitative data.

Rights and interests of data depositors

Besides protecting study participants, DARIS also protects certain rights and interests of those who deposit data with us:

  • Data depositors maintain the copyrights on the data that they provide to DARISS.
  • The data supplier has the right to be informed regularly about the use of the deposited data.
  • If the data are deposited before publication by the researchers (of their own analyses), an embargo may be employed for a specific period of time before the sharing of the data.
  • DARISS asks of data users that they explicitly cite the data source in all publications referring to the data used.

These rights and others are formalised in an agreement between the depositor and DARISS. Click here to see an example of a standard DARISS deposit contract.

Preservation policy
The preservation policy is intended to give a succinct overview of the broader archival business processes of FORS, available to the public. It provides transparency on the objectives and principles that guide FORS with respect to its handling of digital data. It is addressed to FORS staff as well as research funders, data producers and users, and other interested audiences.
The scope of this preservation policy is limited to the data and research information services department DARISS of FORS. It describes the digital preservation strategies and principles of DARIS, as well as the responsibilities and procedures involved in ensuring adequate preservation of and access to the data held within the archive.