Case studies of data practices in distributed research collaborations
Managing research data is a challenge to scientists in fields big and small. Data sharing has become policy enforced by governments, funding agencies, journals, and other stakeholders. Arguments in favor of data sharing include leveraging investments in research, reducing the need to collect new data, addressing new research questions by reusing or combining extant data, and reproducing research, which would lead to greater accountability, transparency, and less fraud. The lack of success of data sharing policies, despite accelerating enforcement over the last decade, indicates the need not just for a much deeper understanding of the roles of data in contemporary science, but also for developing new models of scientific practice.
The UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures conducts social science research on scientific data practices, data management, scholarly communication, and socio-technical systems to inform policy and practice. We present two case studies of distributed research collaborations as examples of data sharing challenges: the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), a large astronomy collaboration that was one of the first surveys to make data public quickly, and a study of uses of Software as a Service (SaaS), a form of scientific cloud-based services, for small and medium-sized laboratories. To complement these U.S.-based studies, we will discuss research methods for our new collaboration with DANS, investigating the archive’s users and uses. All of these cases employ qualitative, multi-method research approaches.
Ashley E. Sands is a doctoral candidate in Information Studies at UCLA. Coming from the field of Archaeology, she has nearly a decade of experience working with scientific data. Her dissertation examines how academic researchers build, use, and sustain computational infrastructures in two astronomy sky surveys. She analyzes how these socio-technical infrastructures support scientific utility as astronomers navigate massive and complex datasets. Research methods include semi-structured interviews, ethnographic participant observation, and document analysis. Ashley’s research interests include scholarly communication, scientific data practices, and data management workforces.
Milena Golshan is the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures’ Data Scientist. She manages and mines the trove of data, which the UCLA Center’s teams have collected since 2002, and facilitates the process of exploiting these resources for longitudinal and comparative research. Milena holds MLIS degrees from UCLA and Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in Bulgaria. She is especially interested in digital archiving and data analysis, management and curation. Milena’s experience includes academic research support, qualitative data analysis, content management, information architecture, and electronic networking for environmental protection.
Sands and Golshan are members of the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures. Christine L. Borgman is the UCLA Center’s PI, Distinguished Professor of Information Studies, and KNAW visiting professor hosted by DANS.