Prof. Dr. Isabel Zorn
Technische Hochschule Köln

Dr. Ann-Kathrin Stoltenhoff
 Europa-Universität Flensburg

Supported Research. Systematization of data protection law and research ethics requirements for collaborative software in education and social sciences (SaFe@digitalScience)

Against the background of an increase in digitally supported empirical research in the course of the digital transformation and on the occasion of the new Federal Data Protection Act to concretize the EU-DSGVO, an increased need for practical knowledge about data protection, personal rights, research ethics and data management is observed among scientists. Few universities, however, offer software solutions that enable DSGVO-compliant collaborations between researchers and adequate research data management. Especially in the field of empirical educational research, where large amounts of data from vulnerable individuals and groups are collected and further processed, the lack of appropriate software is an unsolved problem so far. Due to the use of proprietary applications that are problematic in terms of data protection law, such as Google Drive, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp, data protection violations often occur in research without the scientists being aware of them. Also, there is hardly any knowledge and routinely rolled out software for research collaborations between scientists (communication, project planning, text production, proposal writing, etc.), so that the legitimate interest of scientists in privacy and (research) data protection can hardly be taken into account routinely. The planned project aims to gain insights into which software applications are suitable for collaborative work and research data management. At the same time, competencies in the area of research data management and data protection are to be imparted, awareness of data protection and its relevance to research ethics is to be raised, and the results are to be made available in the form of publications and handouts containing examples of best practice.

Project goals

Presentation and communication of the requirements for data protection compliant accessible collaborative research, publication of handouts for relevant groups: university data protection officers, IT departments, researchers, university management. The handouts are prepared in a contemporary way (website with information + materials for download), conception of a research proposal.


The goals will be realized by an interdisciplinary working group that will meet three times during the project period (2022) to conduct research and meetings, participate in workshops and lectures with experts in the fields of data protection law, data security, research data management, and digital collaboration, and to develop publications and conference papers. For this purpose, we cooperate with various actors on a national and international level.