For qualitative researchers working with living populations, one of the most pressing issues revolves around privacy and the protection of human subjects. With recent discussions of open access, data sharing, and open data circulating within the anthropological discipline, qualitative anthropologists have often submitted IRB forms, which require explicit explanations for limiting access to their data. Outside of confidentiality concerns, data generated by qualitative anthropologists tend to come in the form of interviews with a single document reaching close to 80 pages. For example, if a research project has 65 participants, the number of pages produced would be massive and reach the thousands. This has remained one of the obstacles anthropologists interested in digitizing long form documents with useful search mechanisms have faced. Other questions include: Which identifiers with the interviews need to be removed without significantly changing the presented material? How do medical anthropologists deal with the collection of sensitive medical information and how much of this should be included? The QUALANTH (qualitative anthropology) project seeks to address these issues through the construction of a digital repository that will attempt to embody these concerns.

Created by Fayana Richards (Graduate Student, Anthropology), the QUALANTH digital repository project involves the collection, digitization, and organization of materials such as interview transcripts and field notes. The repository will also host multimedia content such as photos, audio and video. Another important aspect of the repository will be the inclusion of supplementary material, such as project bios, interview guides, consent forms and code books, which will help contextual the primary materials (e.g. interviews). Built using KORA, an open source digital repository platform, QUALANTH will incorporate the conservation of materials with digitization while promoting scholarly collaboration and accessibility. While the primary goal is to have submitted data as open as possible, QUALANTH will be constructed with different levels of access depending on the permissions granted by the contributing authors of the submitted documents.

Outside of the construction of a digital repository, a supplemental white paper was written that discusses methods and best practices for constructing a data repository for qualitative data. Using QUALANTH as a model, the white paper includes discussions about confidentiality and intellectual property. Ultimately, the main purpose of the white paper is to encourage conversations about these issues within the anthropological discipline.

The purpose of QUALATH is to stimulate conversations about open access among anthropologists as well as to facilitate submissions of material to platforms, such as digital platforms, in an effort to increase data sharing among researchers at all levels.


Posted on

October 19, 2018

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