Qualitative data preservation and sharing in the social sciences: On whose philosophical terms?

Natasha S. Mauthner, Odette Parry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decade, an academic debate has developed surrounding qualitative data preservation and sharing in the social sciences, and has been characterised as one between supporters and opponents of this movement. We reframe the debate by suggesting that so-called 'opponents' are not resistant to the principle of data preservation and sharing, but ambivalent about how this principle is being put into practice. Specifically, qualitative researchers are uneasy about the foundational assumptions underpinning current data preservation and sharing policies and practices. Efforts to address these concerns argue that the inclusion of the 'contexts' of data generation, preservation and reuse will adequately resolve the epistemological concerns held by the qualitative research community. However, these 'solutions' reproduce foundational assumptions by treating 'context' as ontologically separate from, rather than constitutive of, data. The future of qualitative data preservation and sharing in the social sciences is dependent on shedding its implicit unitary foundational model of qualitative research, and embracing 'epistemic pluralism' and the diversity of philosophical perspectives representing the qualitative researcher community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-305
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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