Best Practices

Anna M. Claus, M. Sc. RWTH

Portrait of Anna M. Claus Axel Jusseit

Anna M. Claus researches interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary skills. She manages and documents her data from surveys and behavioral observations with the help of myPsychData, a web application made available by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information or ZPID. The application helps her to clearly organize the data and document it in a standardized manner. One challenge of her research is handling personal data.

The added value of research data management for me is primarily a better overview of my own data and its structure.

Anna M. Claus


In my research I look at interdisciplinarity and, for example, the question what skills support successfuly, interdisciplinary collaboration in teams. Interdisciplinary collaboration promises creative solutions for great challenges and problems. Although this type of teamwork can be a challenge in itself.

I methodically implement different processes such as surveys or behavioral observations in assessment centers. While surveys generally provide direct quantitative results through standardized questionnaires (usually online), behavioral observations are evaluated by different observers using a predescribed formula.

In order to maintain an overview of the different datasets and the instruments implemented, I first created documentations in text files. Now I use myPsychData, as it can record both information about the entire dataset (when was the data collected, how was the sample collected, et cetera) and about individual variables (question wording, which standardized questionnaire did it come from, was the item adapted, et cetera) in a single codebook. The tool makes it possible for me to document using a uniform interface and to export data in a standardized format so that I can use the codebook with other tools. The codebook also contains all the information about the individual items such as the exact phrasing of the question, answer coding, and possible copyright of any items. In psychology the questionnaires are often subject to copyright protection, meaning questions cannot be provided in publications but rather questionnaires are only cited.

Almost all of my data is personal data. This means that even before collecting data I have to plan out what I would like to do with data later since I need the subjects' consent in advance. Subjects have a right to know how I will manage and save the data, with whom I may share it or if I will publish it, which some sponsors have come to require.

A correct declaration of consent from subjects is a necessary prerequisite to publishing data for many research data repositories, such as ZPID or GESIS.

One critical point is the anonymization of data, particularly when the objective is to publish the data at a research data repository. It is often insufficient to simply remove names, ages, and places of residence, as the identity of individual subjects can still be determined using context clues. The data must be carefully reviewed and if necessary, additional information must be made unrecognizable.

The added value of research data management for me is primarily a better overview of my own data and its structure. It often takes a while before I have time to evaluate the data or that I return to a dataset after many months during a review process. In those instances it is really helpful to have already documented what each abbreviation stands for and where to find what information. The publication of data is currently primarily a demand made by sponsors.