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Leading in the Digitalization of Research Data

The University of Bremen was very forward-thinking around 30 years ago: As early as in the 1990s, the university created its first digital archive for research data

The topic of digitalization plays an important role in research: Scientists collect immense masses of data that are usual very complex and comprehensive. Archiving said data and making it accessible for other researchers is of great significance. Digitalization makes this possible.

Two examples: In 1988, the first social sciences Collaborative Research Center (CRC) “Status Passages and Risks in the Life Course” was established at the University of Bremen. In the 1990s, those involved started to construct a digital archive. “For that reason, the CRC was an important point of reference for my research work,” says Professor Betina Hollstein, who was at the Freie Universität Berlin at the time. In 2014, she was appointed at the University of Bremen. Today, Hollstein is responsible for the creation of the Qualiservice digital research data center at SOCIUM – Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy at the University of Bremen. As a “living archive”, Qualiservice supports scientists in documenting their work within projects. The aim is to make the research data from the projects available to other colleagues.

“The University of Bremen was very forwardthinking and us researchers are greatly profiting from that today.”

An especially interesting aspect is that it will be possible in the future to investigate and compare social research topics over long periods. Qualitative research material provided by Qualiservice includes interviews or observations for example. This may be in writing as a protocol or transcript but also possible in the form of an audio, image, or video file. The research data center is unique in Germany and is to become one of the central points of contact for all researchers in the country for qualitative research data. Qualiservice works closely with the State and University Library Bremen (SuUB) and the internationally renowned information system PANGAEA.

“The University of Bremen was very forwardthinking and us researchers are greatly profiting from that today,” says Hollstein appreciatively. PANGAEA – Data Publisher for Earth and Environmental Science – was also developed in the 1990s by researchers at the Alfred Wegener institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). It is still being operated together with MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen. PANGAEA is one of the worldwide leading institutes for the archiving and publication of earth and environmental science data. Additionally, it is a certified World Data Center that has collected data from thousands of scientific projects. “

Michael Diepenbroek & Frank Oliver Gloeckner
The long-term managing director of PANGAEA, Dr. Michael Diepenbrock (left), and his successor Professor Frank Oliver Glöckner.
© Privat

At the current point in time, it is possible to find and download nearly 400,000 datasets on the website and use them for further work. And PANGAEA’s tasks are not only restricted to the safeguarding of data,” says the managing director, Dr. Michael Diepenbroek. Under his lead, PANGAEA has significantly furthered the development of research data infrastructures in the past 25 years. There is currently a generational change taking place at PANGAEA, as Diepenbrock will retire at the end of 2020. Professor Frank Oliver Glöckner is his successor. He recently received the appointment as head of PANGAEA at the University of Bremen and AWI. “I am grateful that Michael Diepenbrock will continue to enrich the team with his creative ideas for further development on national and international levels,” says Glöckner.

Bremen scientists with their expertise on research databases are sought-after in Germany. MARUM will be taking on an important role in the establishment of the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI), which will form the foundation for the management of research data in Germany. The aim of the infrastructure is to systematically manage scientific and research data, provide long-term data storage and accessibility, and network the data internationally. The network consists of specialized interconnected points – the individual consortia. Coordination of the NFDI4BioDiversity consortium is managed by MARUM, with Professor Glöckner as spokesperson and Diepenbroek as co-spokesperson.

“In times when millions of species are threatened with extinction, the access to comprehensive, quality- assured research data is decisive for the pending decisions in politics and society.”

However, there is more than “only” the diversity of species behind biodiversity. Biodiversity also includes genetic diversity, functional diversity, and the interactions and diversity of entire ecosystems. “In times when millions of species are threatened with extinction, the access to comprehensive, quality- assured research data is decisive for the pending decisions in politics and society,” says Glöckner. “Together with the three other successful consortia Bremen is involved in, in health, engineering, and social sciences, Bremen is on the path to becoming a national and international competence center in the field of research data management.

More information

Data Publisher for Earth & Environmental Science PANGAEA

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