Qualitative data is increasingly being used in socio-environmental systems research and related interdisciplinary efforts to address complex sustainability challenges. There are many scientific, descriptive and material benefits to be gained from sharing and re-using qualitative data, some of which reflect the broader push toward open science, and some of which are unique to qualitative research traditions. However, although open data availability is increasingly becoming an expectation in many fields and methodological approaches that work on interdisciplinary topics, there remain many challenges associated the sharing and re-use of qualitative data in particular.
A workshop at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland was held last year that brought together researchers, data managers, journal editors, funders, and other actors in the research data ecosystem to discuss the benefits and challenges to qualitative data sharing and re-use. The outcome of this meeting and subsequent collaborative work was a comprehensive white paper, as well as a series of two-page recommendation guides for how specific types of actors can support and facilitate improved qualitative data management and increase qualitative data sharing and re-use. These resources are meant to provide a common starting point for the entire research community to better identify the specific challenges associated with different aspects of qualitative data management, as well as to offer concrete actions that specific types of actors can take. As data sharing and re-use, as well as interdisciplinary research and open science orientations increasingly take hold, it is important to ensure that there are resources, opportunities and protocols in place to ensure that qualitative data is managed, shared and utilized to its full potential.