Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Disciplinary "craft practices" as obstacles to re-usable OA data

Samuelle Carlson and Ben Anderson, What Are Data? The Many Kinds of Data and Their Implications for Data Re-Use, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 2 (2007) article 15.

Abstract:   One key feature of e-science is to encourage archiving and release of data so that they are available in digitally-processable forms for re-use almost from the point of collection. This assumes particular processes of translation by which data can be made visible in transportable and intelligible forms. It also requires mechanisms by which data quality and provenance can be trusted once "disconnected" from their producers. By analyzing the "life stages" of data in four academic projects, we show that these requirements create difficulties for disciplines where tacit knowledge and craft-like methods are deeply embedded in researchers, as well as for disciplines producing non-digital heterogeneous data or data derived from people rather than from material phenomena. While craft practices and tacit knowledges are a feature of most scientific endeavors, some disciplines currently appear more inclined to attempt to formalize or at least record these knowledges. We discuss the implications this has for the e-science objective of widespread data re-use.