The vast availability of digital traces of unprecedented form and scale has led many to believe that we are entering a new data revolution. Will these new data sources and tools allow us to improve business processes in transformative ways? Vyacheslav Polonski argues that the more data is available, the more theory is needed to know what to look for and how to interpret what we have found.
It’s time to put our impact data to work to get a better understanding of the value, use and re-use of research
If published articles and research data are subject to open access and sharing mandates, why not also the data on impact-related activity of research outputs? Liz Allen argues that the curation of an open ‘impact genome project’ could go a long way in remedying our limited understanding of impact. Of course there would be lots of variants in the type of impact ‘sequenced’, but the analysis of ‘big data’ on impact, could facilitate the development of meaningful indicators of the value, use and re-use of research.
The social and material conditions of data collection have a significant bearing on how we think about and understand data. Sandeep Mertia looks at the history of data collection in India and how the conditions have changed over time. From the work of the eminent statistician and founder of the Indian Statistical Institute, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, to the now large scale surveys conducted through tablets and Android apps, various mechanisms have shaped the material lives of survey data.
Data visualisation can be hugely effective in showing where we are in the world today and in context. Jonathan Minton has been exploring the application and potential of 3D printing for engaging with research. But with these new emerging opportunities for the presentation of data we must not do away with the complexity. Rather, visual, visceral and tactile experiences should encourage people to spend the extra effort to interpret and understand data.
With advances in computational methods and the proliferation of data sources, text and data mining offers exciting new directions for research. Neil Stewart, Jane Secker, Chris Morrison and Laurence Horton look at the role of libraries in providing support to researchers for these projects, particularly to help with rights issues and to digitise material for scholarly re-use. Librarians should be bold about the advice they give to researchers and encourage them to use the new copyright exceptions.
In legal studies, discussion of new technologies has often focused on the risks to privacy and data protection. Mariana Gkliati outlines how such technologies may be seen not only as Orwellian threats but also as opportunities for human rights research. Some advances have already been made and there remains much to learn from other fields. However, to build on such progress institutions must be prepared to invest in developing technologies, encourage interdisciplinary work and establish a robust ethical research framework.
Contemporary data infrastructures have had transformative effects; not only on methods, technologies and standards relating to data but also on our social, political, economic and cultural worlds. Building on the open data movement’s successes in the opening and sharing of data sets, Jonathan Gray argues it is time for a broader conversation around the making and development of data infrastructures. Until we institute processes to ensure data infrastructures reflect the concerns of their various publics, we risk sustaining systems that are disengaged from, or even damaging towards, those they are intended to benefit.
Publishing and sharing data papers can increase impact and benefits researchers, publishers, funders and libraries
The process of compiling and submitting data papers to journals has long been a frustrating one to the minority of researchers that have tried. Fiona Murphy, part of a project team working to automate this process, outlines why publishing data papers is important and how open data can be of benefit to all stakeholders across scholarly communications and higher education.
“The Big Data rich and the Big Data poor”: the new digital divide raises questions about future academic research
Data is being created faster than ever before. However, as Kate Metzler explains, limited access to this big data is creating a digital divide between large companies and the broader scholarly community. To compound this problem, there is also a big data analysis skills gap that further hinders the progress of social science. Without access to these datasets or the expertise to analyse them, research is confronted with a replication crisis and is vulnerable to commercial motivations.
What does Big Data mean to public affairs research? Understanding the methodological and analytical challenges
The term ‘Big Data’ is often misunderstood or poorly defined, especially in the public sector. Ines Mergel, R. Karl Rethemeyer, and Kimberley R. Isett provide a definition that adequately encompasses the scale, collection processes, and sources of Big Data. However, while recognising its immense potential it is also important to consider the limitations when using Big Data as a policymaking tool. Using this data for purposes not previously envisioned can be problematic, researchers may encounter ethical issues, and certain demographics are often not captured or represented.