Data sharing and reuse are becoming the norm in quantitative research. At the same time, significant skepticism still accompanies the sharing and reuse of qualitative research data on both ethical and epistemological grounds. Nevertheless, there is growing interest in the reuse of qualitative data, as demonstrated by the range of contributions in this special issue. In this research note, we address epistemological critiques of reusing qualitative data and argue that careful curation of data can enable what we term “epistemologically responsible reuse” of qualitative data. We begin by briefly defining qualitative data and summarizing common epistemological objections to their shareability or usefulness for secondary analysis. We then introduce the concept of curation as enabling epistemologically responsible reuse and a potential way to address such objections. We discuss three recent trends that we believe are enhancing curatorial practices and thus expand the opportunities for responsible reuse: improvements in data management practices among researchers, the development of collaborative curation practices at repositories focused on qualitative data and technological advances that support sharing rich qualitative data. Using three examples of successful reuse of qualitative data, we illustrate the potential of these three trends to further improve the availability of reusable data projects.


data sharing, qualitative data, Qualitative Data Repository

Author Bio(s)

Sebastian Karcher is Research Assistant Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University and Associate Director of the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR). In his research, he investigates the intersection between social science, information science, and technology. Please direct correspondence to skarcher@syr.edu.

Dessislava (Dessi) Kirilova currently serves as the senior curation specialist at the Qualitative Data Repository, having joined QDR at its origin in 2012. In that time, she has contributed to shaping the repository’s policies, acquisitions outreach and provided ongoing curatorial support for depositors (including especially in dealing with human participant and copyright constraints).

Christiane Pagé is Associate Director for the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry, Syracuse University, and a data specialist for the Qualitative Data Repository (www.qdr.org). She has published in the areas of QDAS projects data sharing, international communication and information policy, leadership styles of NGOs, and public-private partnerships.

Nic Weber is Assistant Professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. He is also the technical director of the Qualitative Data Repository. He has a Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of Illinois.

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