The Data Portal

 

It has become obvious that the COVID crisis has strong and multiple ramifications in the fields of social sciences and humanities (SSH), not only to tackle urgent and pressings issues, but also as an approach to the long term. The European SSH research community is intensively engaged in solving pressing issues related to the social, economic and political impact of the pandemics, as demonstrated by the many webpages compiling research outputs from universities, research institutes and think-tanks. There is however a need to support more research interactions, and the integration of data sources to effectively support this timely research.

The function of the COVID-19 SSH research and data platform would be structured around three main pillars:

Provide a single point of entry for the different resources and outputs on COVID-19 in the Social Sciences and Humanities;

  • Provide a single point of entry for the different resources and outputs on COVID-19 in the Social Sciences and Humanities;
  • Identify, direct towards and store datasets, and encourage the sharing and citation of new datasets;
  • Facilitate interactions between academics by providing a forum, and between datasets by curating and valorising the data.

The Data Component: Accelerate Discovery and Data Reuse

Epistemological and cultural differences in SSH within Europe - including divergences on the value of data-driven research itself - have impeded a level of data sharing culture equivalent to levels found in other areas of research, such as life sciences. The COVID-19 crisis represents an unprecedented opportunity to boost a dynamic of data sharing in the SSH in Europe. The proposed data portal is a research coordination device conceived as a public good to support social science research which analyses the consequences of the pandemic and the related policy responses.

The portal is conceived as a subject-oriented integrated platform on COVID-19-related datasets in the Social Sciences and the Humanities. It will be open to researchers across and beyond Europe working on COVID-19, expanding collective access to datasets, reducing potential duplication of effort and increasing the visibility of data that is being compiled

The COVID-19 SSH Data Portal is intended to aggregate information, in the form of rich metadata description, about past, current and future datasets produced by the SSH research communities and provide in a first instance basic services like unified search and discovery, thematic browsing, and direct links to the repository landing pages where datasets can be accessed and/or downloaded.

One of the key services that the project intends to develop is the ability to merge datasets from several sources; in keeping with the open-access nature of the portal, both the original data and the source code for the programmes that carry out the merger would be available for download so that researchers can inspect the algorithm used for the merger and make modifications if desired.

Partnerships are sought to establish collaborations with relevant organisations and initiatives in Europe and beyond.

Types of data

The types of data that the platform intends to collect will comprise both qualitative and quantitative datasets of academic and non-academic nature. Examples of relevant SSH data include:

  • Epidemiological cross-sections time series including infections, hospitalisations, death, and testing of different types, both reported and estimated
  • Data on socially restrictive measures both mandatory and recommended, together with compliance rates
  • Socioeconomic dimensions of the crisis: life course data, households, families, labour markets, work, unemployment, health, health systems, welfare systems, social investment, consumption and household finances
  • Macroeconomic, financial system and Euro area stability: markets, currencies, bonds, debt, sectoral transformation and recovery
  • Political, administrative, security, parliamentary, electoral data, and opinion polls with time-series for understanding the impact of the crisis
  • Datasets with information on the policy responses that have been taken by governments (e.g., trade policies, investment policies, producer subsidy programs, income support, social insurance, etc.)
  • Firm-level and supply chain-specific data, including product-level trade data and investment stocks and flows
  • Data for comparative crisis research: long-range time-series, historical national accounts, GDP, exchange rates, inflation and economic cycles
  • A repository for original documents, such as the text of government regulations and legislation, will potentially need to be established. Such single points of entry are especially relevant for the multi-jurisdictional tracking of what is going on in countries around the world to study a variety of transnational phenomena.

Sources of the data

Sources of the aggregated data portal include existing research data repositories, public data such as from statistical agencies, archival data (for comparative work), and in some cases data collected directly from their producers.

An Academically Driven Endeavour

One area of value added will be to support researchers in combining, lining and using datasets for different variables of interest. A thorough curation process - in terms of the application of both scientific and technical expertise - is needed to adapt to the nature of the data which will be gathered, captured or traced, and also to identify potential connections between datasets which could be conducive to new discoveries.

An Active Hub for a Variety of Actors

Data that is not produced by research organisations, but that is useful to research in the social sciences will also need to be collected, such as data produced by international organisations. Beyond data collection, more bridges need to be built between academia and key users of policy-relevant research.

With the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union

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