Researchers receive over $3 million to expand religion data archives database

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State-led research team was recently awarded two grants to fund updates to the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA).

Roger Finke, distinguished professor of sociology and religious studies, and his research team were awarded $1.4 million by the Lilly Foundation and $1.7 million from the John Templeton Foundation to increase the content, features and outreach of the ARDA.

“Our ultimate goal with this project is to stimulate research that leads to new discoveries, as well as disseminate new information and research findings to diverse audiences,” Finke said.

The ARDA archives more than 900 data files and has been cited as a source in over 300 refereed research journals since 2009. Finke, who is also ARDA director, explained that ARDA resources are utilized by researchers, instructors, governmental agencies and journalists alike. “International journalists, in particular, rely heavily on the ARDA," said Finke.

The research team will add at least 120 new data collections to the ARDA, with many of the files being international in scope and all having measures of religion and spirituality. “We will target key collections for archiving and dissemination, in hopes that the new data will spur new research,” said Finke.

Additionally, the team will be making updates to many other areas of the site, including online interactive software features and educational resources. The website will utilize a content management system that will allow researchers to easily contribute data and populate multiple pages simultaneously.

Finke and his team also will be adding three new resources on measurement, including an expanded and revised Measurement Wizard Scales feature. “The scales feature allows researchers to interactively review and evaluate scales and other measures of religion used in past research,” Fink explained. Another tool called National Profiles will allow researchers to graph changes in religion over time by nations and regions and to map out recent variations.

The new measurement tools will be included in the 2nd volume of "Measures of Religiosity," where additional commentary will be offered. “These new resources will not only stimulate more inter-disciplinary research, they will make the research more efficient and cost effective,” said Finke.

The team will hold seminars at major universities to actively promote ARDA resources and contribute to columns in the industry, such as David Brigg’s “Ahead of the Trend” column.

Both the archive and the new online tools are readily accessible, open to evaluation and free of charge.

Other researchers on the project include Christopher Bader, professor of sociology at Chapman University, and Andrew Whitehead, assistant professor of sociology at Clemson University.

Additional support is being provided by Penn State’s Population Research Institute, part of the Social Science Research Institute.

Contacts: 

Kristie Auman-Bauer

Work Phone: 
814-865-7011

Communications Manager

Last Updated January 13, 2017