The European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics‘ publication ERCIM NEWS put out a special issue on ‘scientific data sharing and re-use.’ In it Christine Borgman (out of UCLA’s department of Information Studies) touches in brief on some of the topics covered in her new volume Big Data, Little Data, No Data: Scholarship in the Networked World (2015, MIT Press).
In her book, Borgman locates data as only meaningful within infrastructures or ecologies of knowledge, and discusses the management and exploitation of data as particular kinds of investments in the future of scholarship. Her take on the history of big data and the growing enthusiasm for data sharing, which she asserts often obscures the challenges and complexities of data stewardship, is relevant to historians of the social sciences. An excerpt:
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Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. Studying data is a means to observe how rapidly the landscape of scholarly work in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities is changing. Inside the black box of data is a plethora of research, technology, and policy issues. Data are best understood as representations of observations, objects, or other entities used as evidence of phenomena for the purposes of research or scholarship. Rarely do they stand alone, separable from software, protocols, lab and field conditions, and other context. The lack of agreement on what constitutes data underlies the difficulties in sharing, releasing, or reusing research data. Continue reading Issues in Open Scholarship: ‘If Data Sharing is the Answer, What is the Question?’