The creation of a qualitative research database, containing material likely to be reanalysed, seems to us to address a number of recurring problems posed by the use of qualitative methods in the social sciences. Such a data base would address concerns about efficiency and resolve issues of access to saturated or difficult field sites. Moreover, it would increase the possibility of comparison across time and space, when qualitative methods come up against problems related to the limited number of cases studied. Finally, it would encourage the cumulation of scientific techniques, allowing for more systematic comparison of the results obtained on different field sites or with different research procedures.
There are many countries, particularly in Europe, already engaged in developing similar projects, but the French SHS scientific community remains somewhat reticent. For deontological reasons primarily, certain researchers are reluctant to share with others data that was produced on the basis of a contract of trust between interviewer and interviewee. Secondly, on an epistemological level, they reject the dissociation of the data produced in these interviews from its conditions of production.
Nevertheless, the accumulated experience of the researchers and research centres involved in this project encourages us to seize this initiative. The CDSP is experienced in archiving quantitative data and is also a member of CESSDA, which is central to organising reflexion on the capitalisation of social science studies at the European level. The researchers of the "Human and Social Sciences" group of EDF R&D are the only ones in France to have already accomplished the archiving and secondary analysis of their qualitative data. Finally, this project is part of the prolongation of a feasibility study financed by ADONIS/CNRS and Sciences Po, which established an innovative prototype for archiving qualitative research in the social sciences.
This research programme aims to further these initial steps by undertaking a thorough test of the feasibility conditions involved in the archiving and reanalysis of qualitative research. It is organised around two deeply interconnected objectives.
Firstly, this project aims to test the usefulness and feasibility of reanalysis, drawing on different examples that bring various relations between the secondary user and the study (or studies) used into play. For this we will undertake five studies focusing on: the link between social mobility and political attitudes, identification to the nation between identity and ideology, the ethnicization of social interaction in working-class areas, careers in journalism, and finally to attitudes regarding European integration. The advantage of these studies is that they are prepared by researchers who specialise in these areas and who hope to find answers to questions which are impossible to address in other ways, in the reanalysis of this data. We hope this will enable us to produce convincing evidence as to the utility of a qualitative database.
Secondly, in the process, we will experiment with and refine the innovative archival techniques which will be necessary to bring our primary objective to fruition. We consider that fieldwork is a co-production of data between the researcher and the milieu that he or she is studying. In this light, archiving cannot be limited to the simple availability of data - its reuse requires "research into research" that would render the archived documents comprehensible. Alongside traditional techniques (digitalisation, anonymization where necessary, documentation, indexation and referencing) we will develop new and innovative tools with the help of a computer platform with a navigation interface allowing research to be found and explored online, in order to conserve the coherence and meaning of archived material. The purpose of this qualitative database would thus also be to enhance the teaching possibilities in the social sciences.
Reanalysis project, which extends the Bequali project, has received funding from the ANR in 2010. This project, led by Sciences Po, associates the following institutional partners : Pacte, Triangle, EDF R&D and Ispole. During the next four years, this research programme aims to further these initial steps by undertaking a thorough test of the feasibility conditions involved in the archiving and reanalysis of qualitative research.
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