Qualitative data are not just quantitative data with text but data with context: On the dangers of sharing some qualitative data: Comment on DuBois et al. (2018)

Sheryl A. McCurdy, Michael W. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


There are many types of qualitative data and data analyses approaches stemming from different disciplinary approaches. In-depth interviews, group interviews, observations, mapping, and other methods are collected in different ways for myriad purposes. They are contextual and need to be understood within the framework of the research conducted. Interviews and transcripts cannot be treated simply as quantitative data sets. We argue the authors call for de-identifying interview transcripts is misguided. Deidentifying data is not a simple process, nor is calling for a broad overarching approach to qualitative data sharing an appropriate solution. Data ownership and stewardship of different types of qualitative research is complicated and varies by disciplinary approaches, funding opportunities, and the need to protect vulnerable populations. In addition, we need to recognize there are many different ways of analyzing interviews and other qualitative data that vary by discipline, theoretical approach, and, hopefully, a deep understanding of the context and purpose in which the data was produced. Further discussions around qualitative data sharing, ownership, and stewardship must take into account all of the above issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-411
Number of pages3
JournalQualitative Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors attempt to claim that data ownership should be with the institution and not the Principal Investigator (PI). They seem to think that many qualitative researchers are funded by the NIH or National Science Foundation and claim that data collected by PIs of NIH-funded studies stay at their original institution. Actually, data from NIH studies move with the PI if he or she changes institutions. In the case of Fulbright scholar funding, the institution is never involved financially. The fellowship funds are deposited directly into the scholar’s personal bank account. Many qualitative researchers cull together funding from several organizations and foundations and even fund their own research activities at different points in their careers. The idea that these individuals should cede their ownership or stewardship of these interviews to an institution that may or may not have been involved in funding the research activity lacks traction.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • Dangers associated with data sharing
  • Data stewardship
  • Differences between qualitative and quantitative data ownership
  • Qualitative data analysis
  • Qualitative data sharing


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