The Mysterious User of Research Data: Knitting Together Science and Technology Studies with Information and Computer Science

Kathleen Gregory*, Paul Groth, Andrea Scharnhorst, Sally Wyatt

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

Onderzoeksoutput: Hoofdstuk in boek/boekdeelHoofdstukWetenschappelijkpeer review


The open science movement promises to change the production and dissemination of academic knowledge by making the processes and results of research transparent and available, to the benefit of individual researchers, the pocketbooks of funders, and the research enterprise as a whole. Open, accessible, and standardized research data are seen as essential scaffolding for realizing these promises.
Sharing and documenting research data, for example, offer a potential antidote to problems with reproducibility in science by providing a way to validate experimental findings. Reusing research data provides potential economic benefits, by limiting the amount of possibly redundant and nearly always costly data collection. Shared pools of research data offer new possibilities for using data science techniques to tackle society’s most wicked problems.
Working to support these visions, data repositories and scientific publishers have increasingly become entangled in mass operations of data documentation and exchange. New tools have been developed to facilitate the discovery of data, and funders and policy makers have implemented policies at national and institutional levels for both open science and data management (European Commission, 2019).
Users are invoked as being central to many of these efforts. Designers of data search tools experiment with sophisticated methods to present the user with the best possible results (e.g., Brickley et al., 2019). Educational tools are designed to help users of repositories and data management tools construct data which are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, or FAIR (Wilkinson et al., 2016). Various metadata schemas, standards, and tools are developed to aid users in discovering and understanding data (e.g., Ohno-Machado et al., 2017).
Despite this stated user focus, the concept of the ‘user’ or ‘users,’ similar to that of ‘data’ and of the practices surrounding data reuse, is conceptualized differently across and within disciplinary domains. In many technical and design-oriented areas of information and computer science, users often remain at arm’s length, visible only via ensembles of click behavior, search logs, or data management plans (Van House, 2004).
This acontextual, homogenous view of users contrasts with the heterogeneous, embedded, and socially constructed understanding of use which characterizes work in science and technology studies (STS) (Wyatt, 2003).
Research rooted in these two conflicting views is often undertaken along parallel, yet isolated tracks. When they do intersect, communication between these two perspectives on users is challenging (Tabak, 2014). This chapter reflects upon a project which knit together differing notions of ‘users’ as a way of grounding interdisciplinary research. In addition to producing novel insights about the reuse of research data, this approach also served to bridge the distance between STS researchers and computer scientists, and between designers of data search systems and users themselves.
After explaining the context of the project, we begin from the end, highlighting the results and outcomes which our ‘integrative-synthesis’ approach to interdisciplinarity (Barry et al., 2008) afforded. We then turn to the development of our interdisciplinary approach by exploring the conceptual roots of users within information/computer science and STS and discussing how we wove these ideas together within our research.
We conclude by identifying and reflecting on three points that may be applicable to others conducting interdisciplinary research: (i) a common (yet differently conceptualized) idea, for example, ‘users,’ can serve as an anchor for interdisciplinary work, much in the way of a boundary object; (ii) interdisciplinarity itself is an evolving, contextual construct; and (iii) the broader impacts of interdisciplinary research may change perspectives and practices in ways which are difficult to trace.
Originele taal-2Engels
TitelInterdisciplinarity in the Scholarly Life Cycle
SubtitelLearning by Example in Humanities and Social Science Research
RedacteurenKarin Bijsterveld, Aagje Swinnen
Plaats van productieCham
UitgeverijPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN van geprinte versie978-3-031-11107-5
StatusGepubliceerd - 2023


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