Interview with Kathrin Knautz from Fraunhofer IAIS

Assessing the most pressing challenges in the Data Portability domain

As a starting activity of the Data Portability and Services Incubator a survey was conducted on research challenges in the domain of data portability. We spoked with Kathrin Knautz, from Fraunhofer IAIS, to find out more about it.

As the task leader of the survey on research challenges in the data portability field, launched under DAPSI’s project, could you explain what was its purpose and why was it so important to do it as a starting activity of the project?

The aim of the survey was to assure that the relevant research domains and challenges in Services and Data Portability are addressed and assessed to contribute to the development of this field. The results of the survey form the basis of the research questions to be addressed for the 1st Open Call document.

What kind of participants were you looking for and how did you reach them?

We were looking for researchers from various domains such as legal analysis and compatibility, cryptography or database management. Additionally, the needs of users and industries were important aspects for us, so that the defined challenges would address their expectations and use cases. To obtain diverse answers from various groups, the survey was spread by using different channels. One channel were the internal networks of the project partners; a second one utilized expert networks. We also shared the survey on scientific events (e.g. conferences) and contacted selected experts after a previous analysis of the relevant backgrounds. In addition to the first survey, we launched a second one, which contained the same questions as the first survey, but was intended for the members of the Advisory Board. Overall, 221 participants took part in this survey of which 71 answered all questions. Most respondents work in the fields of research, development and entrepreneurship. Only a few respondents work in other areas e.g. in the educational area, in think tanks,  in legal services or the private sector. The results indicate that the target groups to answer the questions were reached as expected.

What were the main results of the survey? Were there any unexpected or surprising insights?

The results demonstrated that there is a very high demand for divers solutions in the field of Data Portability. The survey participants wanted solutions that enable them to more easily get an overview of which data has been collected, stored, manipulated, and analyzed. They asked for data visualization tools and interfaces that present the privacy conditions to them in such a way that they understand the content. With regard to interoperability and compatibility, a lot of people asked for a catalogue of basic standards and tools to transform between them. The development of new tools for semi-automatically converting data from one format to another was also a frequently mentioned point. Tools and services that seek to minimize security risks during data porting were requested frequently in the area of security and privacy. In addition, the results of the survey also confirmed that the subdomains – Data Transparency, Data Compatibility & Interoperability and Security & Privacy – cannot be considered separately. To the contrary, all subdomains merge into one another in almost every area.

How did these results contributed to the definition of DAPSI’s First Open Call?

Together with the input from the members of the Advisory Board, the results form the basis for the research questions to be addressed in the Open Call document. The descriptions of the subdomains for the Open Call document have also been adjusted giving a better orientation in the domain. To create an atmosphere of open mind and to allow creative solutions, the fields of work were formulated relatively open in the open call. In addition, a fourth category was added enabling applicants to submit other ideas for data and service portability projects beyond these research areas for which they have identified a user need or market demand.

Will the survey be carried out again before the next DAPSI’s open calls? Will there be any differences in terms of approach or expected results?

It is planned that the survey will be repeated before each open call. We had very good experiences with the chosen approach. In order not to impose any restrictions or influences, we largely used open questions. This made the evaluation more difficult but had the advantage of receiving a large range of answers and ideas. Adjustments regarding the subdomains and directions to be addressed depend especially on the focus of the submissions in the first call.