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Critical Data for Science: Why a Research Data Act?

Feat. Stefan Bender of Deutsche Bundesbank

Public authority data, i.e. data that accumulates in the course of administrative acts or is specifically collected by public authorities for precisely defined purposes, is subject to special protection – for good reasons: personal data reveals a great deal aof personal information, and data on companies might be used to deduce their business secrets. Economic and social research however, is not concerned with individual cases. It looks for large social or economic contexts and therefore looks into government data as a whole. Individuals and companies become an anonymous data point in their statistics. The results of this research can inform political decisions, objectify public debates with provable figures and bring hidden developments to light – if researchers are given access to these data and have permission to link them with other date. Here, the current legal situation in Germany does not present a uniform picture. Practical hurdles in data access are also criticised by representatives of independent research. A negotiation process is taking place between those who produce and share data, those who want to conduct research on this data and the data protection authorities, who must ensure that information about individuals remains safe with the authorities.

Prof. Stefan Bender heads the Research Data and Service Centre of the Deutsche Bundesbank, which he also represents in the German Data Forum (RatSWD). The economist is an expert on data access, big data, linking data and data quality. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, he explains what exactly makes government data particularly interesting for research, how data access is regulated today and where it needs to be improved. Bender discusses with hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring which perspectives clash in the discussion about data access for research, where exciting new questions arise – and what a well-designed research data act (“Forschungsdatengesetz”) can improve.

Episode 42 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Stefan Bender of Deutsche Bundesbank, 10 October 2023
Further informationen:

Link to the website of the German Data Forum (RatSWD):

Link to the website of the Consortium for the Social, Behavioural, Educational and Economic Sciences (KonsortSWD):

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.