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Digital Footprints and Data-Security Risks for Political Scientists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2022

Colin Henry
Vanderbilt University, USA
Anita Gohdes
Hertie School, Germany
Cassy Dorff
Vanderbilt University, USA


As greater shares of research and data are digitized, political scientists are increasingly confronted with questions pertaining to data security. Yet, data-management plans rarely evaluate the risks pertaining to a researcher’s data across all project phases. This article highlights distinct risks related to key phases of the research process that deserve more attention by scholars. We emphasize risks during a project’s inception and pre-data-collection phases, as well as risks associated with data publication and its afterlife. We discuss how shifts in political context and (re)newed politicization of topics can present new security risks for both the researcher and the researched communities long after a project has been completed. We provide a framework for recognizing and mitigating data risks, thereby contributing to the growing interest in data-security best practices.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

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