Social Sciences & Humanities Research Data IG - TAB Review

Interest Group Title:  Social Sciences & Humanities Research Data IG

Group Page:


Updated charter

ProposersJonathan Crabtree, Ron Dekker

Date Received by TAB:  5 January 2019

Comments of the revised charter



Recommendation:  Charter is Sufficient __; Charter Requires Revision __; Charter is Rejected __


Comments on the original charter


The Proposal for Social Sciences & Humanities Research Data Interest Group states that the objective of the IG is to “bring together major community members seeking to coordinate international social science research data sharing”.  Social Science is a very data-intensive field with a wide range of methodologies. Given this, the objective points to a coordination effort that is necessary and falls within the focus areas of RDA. 

Focus and Fit:  

(Are the Interest Group objectives aligned with the RDA mission ?  Is the scope too large for effective progress, too small for an RDA effort, or not appropriate for the RDA?  Overall, is this a worthwhile effort for the RDA to take on?  Is this an effort that adds value over and above what is currently being done within the community?)

The group can bring significant value to RDA in general and to many of the existing groups, especially in the areas of social sciences and humanities data policies and practices



(Does the initial membership list include sufficient expertise, and disciplinary and international representation?  Are the people involved in the Interest Group sufficient to make tangible progress?  What individuals or organizations are missing?) 

In terms of representation, it looks ok, with several representatives from Africa and OECD countries. The proposers represent key organizations/initiatives in the SSH field.  They might need to consider having representation from other regions (e.g., Asia and Latin America).  The BoF at P12 had a good attendance from different regions.


Impact and Engagement:

(Is it likely that the Interest Group will engage the intended community?  Is there evidence that the research community wants this?  Will the outcome(s) of the Interest Group foster data sharing and/or exchange?)

The stated objective is broadly based and intends to work towards fostering "diverse professional exchange on issues particular to data originating from the social sciences and humanities". However, diversity can be due to geographical areas, economic zones, technology capacities, and political agendas towards data sharing and in different domains, just to mention a few. The proposers should take care to be inclusive of all the factors if they intend to address the diversity represented by the RDA membership.

Suggestions for improvement:

1. The proposers did not provide any rationale for the three specific priorities: Data quality, data policy, and sensitive data. While there is no problem with these priorities, it would be clearer if the co-chairs could provide some background on why these priorities were called out, in particular. They might need to have a definition of "quality" in their first priority.

2. It is rather concerning that one of the objectives stated is "find automated ways to investigate and provide information on quality". We know from experience that automation can further marginalize underrepresented groups, especially in science. In particular, this could marginalize scientists form the global south if the automated system applies criteria from the global north to verify/certify quality. Moreover, the examples used for innovation in creating ecosystems are that of Apple and AT&T. Is it advisable to allude to proprietary technologies and  platforms, and to technologies that are quite out of reach of marginalized communities?  If the group needs to identify members and contributions from worldwide communities, the examples and use cases should be much broader and sensitive to marginalized communities' needs.

3. The issue of automation could also raise some concerns about the potential for commercializing such tools.

4. The proposers are advised to have a look at and interact with the Data for Development IG in particular and take into account the outputs of the Empirical Humanities Metadata WG to avoid duplication of efforts and harmonize the work of the proposed SSH groups with these existing groups. 



Recommendation:  Charter is Sufficient _X_; Charter Requires Revision __; Charter is Rejected __

The chairs may work with group liaison to make sure suggestions are incorporated.

Additional Comments:  None.