Digital Data Archives as Knowledge Infrastructures: Mediating Data Sharing and Reuse

Christine L. Borgman, Andrea Scharnhorst, Milena S. Golshan

Research output: Working paper/discussion paperPreprint

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Digital data archives play essential roles in knowledge infrastructures by mediating access to data within and between communities. This three-year qualitative study of DANS, a digital data archive containing more than 50 years of heterogeneous data types, provides new insights to the uses, users, and roles of these systems and services. Consumers are highly diverse, including researchers, students, practitioners in museums and companies, and hobbyists. Contributors are not necessarily consumers of data from the archive, and few users cite data in DANS, even their own data. Academic contributors prefer to maintain control over data after deposit so that they can have personal exchanges with those seeking their data. Staff archivists provide essential mediating roles in identifying, acquiring, curating, and disseminating data. Archivists take the perspective of potential consumers in curating data to be findable and usable. Staff balance competing goals, and competing stakeholders, in time spent acquiring and curating data, in maintaining current data and long-term stewardship, and in providing direct access and interfaces to search engines and harvesters. Data archives are fragile in the long run, due to the competing stakeholders, multiple funding sources, and array of interacting technologies and infrastructures on which they depend.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 08 Feb 2018


  • cs.DL


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