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Launch: Open Access Data Centre

When: Tuesday, 08 May 2018 - Tuesday, 08 May 2018
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
Senate Room, 2nd Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House
Start time:10:30

A seminar marking the establishment of an Open Access Data Centre for democracy research and the development of empirical social sciences in South Africa.

The Centre is located in the Transformation Research Unit (TRU) in the Department of Political Science, Stellenbosch University; and is sponsored by the Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).


Welcome:  Prof. Z. Vilakazi: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Postgraduate Affairs)          

Introductions:  Prof. U. van Beek: Director TRU


Prof. Hans-Dieter Klingemann, former Director Social Science Centre Berlin (WZB); President: University of Applied Sciences BAU International, Berlin

Title of presentation: Studying support for democracy: On the interplay between an empirically-based research program and the effort to secure access to data 

The talk will stress that efforts to share data usually originate in the process of analyzing and trying to understand a particular problem. In the case of TRU, this has been monitoring the quality of democracy as a key factor deciding the future persistence of a democratic form of government. The talk will emphasize that to be valid the monitoring of the quality of democracy must be empirically based, necessitating access to relevant data. Access to such data will enable assessments of South African developments continentally via the Afrobarometer, and globally via the Varieties of Democracy Project (V-DEM), the World Values Survey and many others.

Dr H.C. Ekkehard Mochmann, former Director: German Social Science Infrastructure Services (GESIS).

Title of presentation: The Dynamics of Sharing Research Data

The talk will stress the dynamics of sharing data for research. The presentation will sketch the history of sharing data and will give an overview of the data archive networks that have been developed globally. The talk will elaborate on the consideration for quality criteria as well as the issue of capacity building, including the virtue of data-labs for hands-on training. An assessment will be offered of currently existing global research infrastructures.

Background about the Centre

The Transformation Research Unit (TRU) at Stellenbosch conducts comparative mixed methods research on democracy and democratic developments in a cross-cultural (African, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Latin-American and European) perspective. Four consecutive projects have been completed since 2000, when the programme was first established. The countries of interest include five younger democracies (South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Chile and Poland) and two control cases (Sweden and Germany). 

In the course of the research programme it has become increasingly apparent that the abundance of relevant data is poorly utilised most probably due the absence of a central point for the collection, interpretation, analyses and exchange of data for the comparative study of democracy. This observation gave rise to the idea of creating an open access data centre in the form of an Intelligent Node.

The aim of the Intelligent Node is not to become yet another archive competing with existing data repositories, but rather to develop research capacity by helping African researchers and postgraduate students locate relevant data needed for their projects on democracy in particular - and in the Social Sciences in general.

The Intelligent Node will assist them with searching global repositories of existing archive networks, thus utilising the vast amount of already existing data. Since access to data alone will not rectify the present state of affairs, a concurrent training programme will be developed in the scarce skills area of data analyses.

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