On the Importance of an Open Standard Exchange Format for QDA Projects

I just returned from the Berliner Methodentreffen. One of the initiatives that was most interesting to me is a new attempt at agreeing on and standardizing an open exchange format for qualitative data analysis projects between the different QDA tools. As of today, it is not possible to take your data from one vendor’s tool to another; you are locked-in to one product. The Rotterdam Exchange Format Initiative (REFI) is trying to change that using the budding QDA-XML format.

There are three common reasons for why such an exchange format (and hence the initiative) is important.

  • Users can switch more easily between QDA tools. If another tool offers better functionality than the current one, a user may switch to that other tool. Thus, the format increases competition between the vendors for better tools and functionality
  • Researchers can more easily collaborate and archive projects. Researchers don’t have to standardize on one tool and can more easily make their data available to other researchers. This improves science as it easier to verify and build upon each other’s work.
  • Finally, a standard creates broader innovation. My research group can now more easily create functions that the vendors will never get to. A standard empowers us to do that. The formerly closed ecosystem opens itself up to contribution and innovation.

So, let’s hope that REFI works out!

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