Virginia Tech is one of the first institutional partners of the Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University, which  provides Virginia Tech faculty opportunities to preserve qualitative data in a way that makes their research data more valuable to current and future researchers.

“This is a very exciting time,” said Colin Elman, co-director of the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) at Syracuse University. “We are now on the leading edge of making qualitative data accessible, reusable, and shareable to benefit current and future research.”

QDR is a data repository specifically for qualitative data. University Libraries at Virginia Tech’s Social Science Data Consultant Nathaniel Porter is Virginia Tech’s institutional representative to QDR, and Virginia Tech is one of QDR’s first institutional members.

“Qualitative data, the rich text or multimedia data you find in interviews, focus groups, and some surveys, is very important research data. It is analyzed differently than quantitative, or numbers-based, data. There is more judgment involved on the part of the people doing the analysis. Once the article or report is written, the raw data can be inaccessible,” said Porter.

Porter said it’s important for the University Libraries at Virginia Tech to be on the ground floor of this initiative.

“This is a new frontier; we’re moving beyond keeping this data on a laptop or departmental server. We can use QDR to curate, store, and access qualitative and mixed-method data,” said Porter. “We can draw on past data and look for patterns that may not have been interesting to the previous researcher, but may help inform new research through seeing patterns that might not have been noted before.”

The University Libraries emphasizes making the scholarly work of faculty more accessible to anyone with an internet connection. “We, as libraries, have a long-standing commitment to sharing data and research broadly through open access and to collaborating with other institutions to make the research of the Virginia Tech community have the greatest impact on society as possible,” said Porter.

The libraries is uploading data from its own qualitative research to learn more about how QDR works.

“We have interviews and surveys from multiple past library resources needs assessments. By combining those, we've been able to gain new insight, improve our services, and change how we have asked questions in new assessments,” said Porter. “Researchers at other universities have already requested we share those findings, and depositing at QDR has been an easy and powerful way to make our data widely available.”

Through this partnership, the University Libraries at Virginia Tech will have representation on the governance board of QDR and be involved in the latest developments in managing and sharing qualitative data. The University Libraries will host on-campus workshops throughout the academic year in which its data services team and the QDR staff will discuss qualitative data sharing and analytics.

“Virginia Tech is very good at doing this with quantitative data,” said Porter. “It is a natural fit to embrace the future for another kind of data that has traditionally been left out of open access.”

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