Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives



Tour of CESSDA – The Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS)

This series of articles highlight each of CESSDA's national service providers one at a time. Our first destination this summer is Switzerland.

  • Who‌ ‌are‌ ‌you‌ ‌and‌ ‌what‌ ‌role‌ ‌do‌ ‌you‌ ‌play‌ ‌in‌ ‌CESSDA?‌ ‌

FORS is the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences, an independent government-funded institution located on the campus of the University of Lausanne. As a national research infrastructure for the social sciences, FORS implements large-scale national and international surveys, offers data and research information services to researchers and academic institutions, and conducts methodological and thematic research. FORS represents Switzerland as observer in the General Assembly of the CESSDA ERIC, and FORS staff participate in coordinating bodies of CESSDA and its various projects.

  • When‌ ‌did‌ ‌your‌ ‌country‌ ‌become‌ ‌a‌ ‌member?‌ ‌

Between 1993 and 2008, the data archive for the social sciences within SIDOS in Neuchâtel represented Switzerland within the CESSDA network. FORS inherited the SIDOS archive in 2008 and has been the Swiss service provider for CESSDA ever since.

  • What‌ ‌does‌ ‌your‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌CESSDA?‌ ‌

Representing Switzerland, we actively take part in CESSDA’s main governance bodies. We contribute to various CESSDA projects, sharing our longstanding know-how in the field of data archiving, as well as our more recent expertise in data management. We have also directly contributed to the establishment of new archives, especially in the Balkans, through the SERSCIDA and SEEDS projects. Some of these archives have now become full CESSDA members. As Switzerland’s main archive in the Social Sciences, we host high-quality FAIR research data that will be made available through the CESSDA Data Catalogue. Data are stored in our FORSbase digital repository, whose development has provided us with strong technical skills and knowledge, which also benefits international collaborations. Last but not least, we regularly promote CESSDA through our training activities.

  • What‌ ‌tangible‌ ‌benefits‌ ‌does‌ ‌your‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌get‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌being‌ ‌a‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌member?‌ ‌

We strongly benefit from our collaboration with CESSDA in many ways. Amongst some of the main benefits, we can state the following:

  • It is extremely valuable to be part of an international network of experts, and to get to collaborate with partners with similar interests and learn from each other;
  • There are lots of synergies and common goals across international institutions. Working together at developing tools and materials represents an opportunity to save valuable time at the institutional level, while increasing the quality of products;
  • CESSDA offers many opportunities to work on interesting projects and to develop our in-house expertise;
  • We directly benefit from the CESSDA tools;
  • Receiving international certification (CoreTrustSeal of Approval) provides a most valuable asset for our institution, and a label of quality at both the national and international level;
  • FORS visibility is increased by being a CESSDA member;
  • FORS’ membership within CESSDA gives Swiss researchers easy access to data distributed by all member archives.
  • Which‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌tools‌ ‌and/or‌ ‌services‌ ‌are‌ ‌of‌ ‌interest‌ ‌to‌ ‌your‌ ‌organisation?‌ ‌(see‌ ‌list‌ online)‌

FORS benefits from the collective expertise made available from being a CESSDA member, as well as collaboration on projects of common interest. We also benefit from CESSDA trainings and materials on topics regarding archival standards, best practices, and data management.

  • How‌ ‌does‌ ‌the‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌Data‌ ‌Management‌ ‌Expert‌ ‌Guide‌ ‌help‌ ‌researchers‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌their‌ ‌research‌ ‌data‌ ‌FAIR?‌ ‌

The CESSDA Data Management Expert Guide (DMEG) is an extremely useful resource for any researchers having to comply with Open Data requirements, or simply interested in improving data management skills. As such, it is both relevant to novice and more advanced researchers. Its electronic format allows different usages: researchers can use it as training module by progressing through the chapters in a chronological manner, or by selecting a specific topic of interest. The DMEG not only helps researchers to take important decisions with respect to data management planning, but also provides essential applied guidance throughout the research life cycle, which will ultimately result in the production of high-quality FAIR data.

  • How‌ ‌is‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌helping‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌your‌ ‌data‌ ‌compliant‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌FAIR‌ ‌Data‌ ‌principles?‌ ‌

CESSDA works on clarifying and operationalizing FAIR principles so that member service providers can comply. For example, CESSDA provides the Core Metadata Model, controlled vocabularies, and harvesting so that national service providers can expose their data and metadata internationally, thus respecting the principles of findability and interoperability.

  • Which‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌training‌ ‌events‌ ‌or‌ ‌resources‌ ‌do‌ ‌staff‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌recommend‌ ‌and‌ ‌why?‌ ‌

FORS is actively involved in the training of data management and regularly promotes the Data Management Expert Guide. It is a very complete guide which covers all the main data management topics and which can be used in different ways depending on researchers’ needs – from a short introduction to the various topics to more advanced training.

  • How‌ ‌do‌ ‌you‌ ‌see‌ ‌CESSDA‌ ‌supporting‌ ‌you‌ ‌in‌ ‌2020?‌ ‌

FORS looks forward in 2020 to advancing with CESSDA partners ongoing work on providing services to academic journals though the CESSDA widening and outreach work plan project. We are looking forward to being able to make our high-visibility survey questionnaires discoverable within the CESSDA European Question Bank. Last, in preparing our re-application for CoreTrustSeal certification, we will be happy to benefit from advice and support from the CESSDA Trust Group.

Read the last article in this series about the Portuguese Archive of Social Information.