Data Archiving in Psychology


Alice Eagly, PhD, Member of the Board of Scientific Affairs
Interest in archiving psychological research data is growing rapidly. Although psychologists have seldom archived their data in the past, more investigators are realizing that their research can contribute more effectively to knowledge acquisition if their raw data can be reused by others in secondary analyses and meta-analyses. The discipline of psychology has been somewhat slow to join the scientific movement toward data archiving, perhaps in part because psychological researchers produce a very large number of small data sets. However, with improvements in technology, practical barriers to effective archiving have eroded. Also, as interest in meta-analyzing research literatures has increased, more investigators wish to have more thorough access to others' data sets in order to represent accurately their findings in research syntheses.

Given the growing interest in archiving among research psychologists, the APA Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) has initiated discussions on the feasibility of archiving psychological data. BSA has determined that very large amounts of quantitative data in the social sciences are currently being archived through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). In fact, granting agencies and some journals in social-science fields require data archiving as a condition for receiving grants or publishing research papers, and ICPSR is a major repository of these data sets. Psychologists may, therefore, wish to develop archiving relationships with ICPSR or with other archiving groups such as the Murray Research Center of Radcliffe College. Other special-pur-pose archives are being developed to house specific types of psychological data.

If archiving is to proceed on a wider basis among psychologists, a system needs to be developed for archiving data when studies are published in journals. The availability of the data could then be stated in the article's "author note" and carried with the abstract on PsycLIT and PsycINFO. It is even possible that some psychological journals, like those in political science and sociology, might require archiving as a condition for publication and that granting agencies might require it as a condition for receiving research funding.

Research psychologists need to discuss data archiving among themselves. In addition, APA science division leaders should discuss the issue with their members. Many details have to be worked out to determine the desirable locations for archives and the form in which data sets would be stored. Also, researchers would need to modify their informed consent documents to acknowledge that data would be archived and accessible to other researchers.

Interested psychologists are invited to attend the symposium, "Data Archiving in Psychology," which will take place in August at the 1997 Annual APA Convention in Chicago. This symposium will feature talks by several researchers who have been involved in establishing and maintaining data archives, including ICPSR and the Murray Research Center. This symposium was planned by BSA and the Forum on Research Management of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences.

The Science Directorate and BSA welcome comments on data archiving. Please direct comments to Suzanne Wandersman, Director for Governance Affairs, in the Science Directorate [202/336-6000; ssw.apa@email.apa.org].