Gwennaëlle Brilhault, Chief of the Survey Department, and Arianna Caporali, Research engineer, present INED’s DataLab

INED recently set up a structure called the DataLab. What does it do?

(Interview conducted in March 2021)

The DataLab was set up in 2019 as part of INED’s Surveys Department (SES) in order to centralize, structure, and strengthen all the activities involved in making databases available to researchers that were already carried out at INED. This structure encompasses the activities of making INED survey data available, i.e., the preparation and the dissemination via specialized software of Production and Research Files (FPR). The DataLab also brings together activities related to the design, collection, uploading, updating and overall maintenance of demographic and contextual databases. It is also involved in coordinating the Generations and Gender Programme (GGP) project, led by the NIDI (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute), in making the GGP survey available, and is in charge of the development of the GGP Contextual Database. The DataLab activities are developed in collaboration with Quetelet PROGEDO Diffusion, the French component of CESSDA  (Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives).

Why was the DataLab created?

The answer lies in the current context: the development of Open Science, the decision to make research data more widely available (in accordance with France’s Plan National pour la Science Ouverte or national open science plan), and the growth of “open data.” Data are now being put on open or adapted access quite quickly, so they need to be top quality: accurate, complete, consistent, well documented; their sources have to be traceable and accessibility has to comply with personal data protection regulations. It is important for a research institute such as INED to know and assess the existing available data and to contribute to the dissemination of accurate and reliable data for social science research. The DataLab was created to meet these challenges using the solid experience in this area already acquired at the Institute. Such an established structure ensures that INED databases are developed and regularly updated in close liaison with the researchers who are most directly involved in creating  and using them. Moreover, this structure is an “institutional” interlocutor for similar ones already operating in other European demographic research institutes, like the DataLab of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research or MPIDR, with which INED co-manages some databases. 

What databases does INED’s DataLab manage?

The data made available by our DataLab are from surveys conducted by INED, usually in collaboration with other organizations, such as INSEE. These are questionnaire-based surveys that deal with such questions as migration trajectories, couple and partnering trajectories, fertility, contraception, family relations, employer-employee relations. The surveys and their data can be consulted through our DataLab-managed online catalogue. And the INED DataLab is also currently managing the online GGP survey catalogue

In addition to the surveys themselves, the DataLab also manages demographic and contextual databases, most of them developed thanks to INED’s various international collaborations. These databases cover a considerable number of European countries; some of them are at the world scale. They group together multiple indicators, most in the field of demography but some in sociology, economics and political science, and are used by researchers studying surveys to discover the environment and context in which respondents act or acted, or in teaching socio-demographic trend analysis. For a list of the databases in question, see here.

What are the procedures for accessing these databases?

The demographic and contextual databases managed by the DataLab are on open access online. The survey data are available to the scientific community only (including students) for research purposes, following a procedure using the Quetelet PROGEDO Diffusion portal application and detailed here.

Datalab website