Big data is not about size: when data transform scholarship

Authors : Jean-Christophe Plantin, Carl Lagoze, Paul N. Edwards, Christian Sandvig

“Big data” discussions typically focus on scale, i.e. the problems and potentials inherent in very large collections. Here, we argue that the most important consequences of “big data” for scholarship stem not from the increasing size of datasets, but instead from a loss of control over the sources of data.

The breakdown of the “control zone” due to the uncertain provenance of data has implications for data integrity, and can be disruptive to scholarship in multiple ways. A retrospective look at the introduction of larger datasets in weather forecasting and epidemiology shows that more data can at times be counter-productive, or destabilize already existing methods.

Based on these examples, we look at two implications of “big data” for scholarship: when the presence of large datasets transforms the traditional disciplinary structure of sciences, as well as the infrastructure for scholarly communication.


Les pratiques informationnelles des chercheurs à l’ère du numérique

Auteur/Author : Amal Jaouzi

Dans la présente étude, nous avons tenté d’analyser les modalités d’accès aux informations scientifiques et techniques, en particulier et aux publications scientifiques éditées par les grands éditeurs, en général.

Nous précisons que ladite analyse porte principalement sur les pratiques informationnelles des chercheurs issus des pays en voie de développement, notamment les enseignants-chercheurs et les doctorants marocains.

En effet, notre étude s’inscrit dans le domaine des Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication dans la mesure où elle traite principalement les problématiques d’accès aux communications scientifiques.

Á ce titre, en vue d’apporter des éléments de réponse et d’explication aux questions de recherche que nous avons défini au début de cette étude, nous nous sommes entretenus avec vingt-et-un (21) chercheurs marocains issus de trois instituts d’enseignement supérieur : IAV, INPT et ESI, dont le domaine est respectivement, l’agronomie et la médecine vétérinaire ; les télécommunications et les sciences de l’information.

Il s’agit d’un entretien semi-directif guidé par une grille d’entretien. Par ailleurs, selon les résultats de l’enquête menée, l’accès aux informations scientifiques est problématique au Maroc.

Les chercheurs font appel à des pratiques contournées pour acquérir les articles scientifiques, notamment, l’utilisation de certains réseaux de partage tel que ResearchGate ou l’utilisation des sites de recensement des productions scientifiques de grands éditeurs, comme la plate-forme Sci-Hub ou Libgen.

Outre ces constats, nous avons tenté, par le biais de ce travail, de situer l’usage du hashtag #IcanhazPDF dans la démarche d’accès aux communications scientifiques. Par conséquent, nous avons constaté que ladite pratique demeure récente et méconnue dans le contexte marocain mais, à laquelle les chercheurs marocains ont porté un intérêt particulier et ont exprimé leurs volontés de l’utiliser et de la pratiquer.

La valeur ajoutée de ce travail est transversale dans le sens où il présente une analyse axée sur l’usage des productions scientifiques dans deux contextes différents : marocain et étranger -en particulier français- et dans le sens où il présente également l’étude d’une pratique nouvelle qui n’a pas été traitée par un grand nombre de chercheurs.

Nous évoquons, à ce niveau, la pratique de demande des articles scientifiques payants moyennant le hashtag #IcanhazPDF sur le réseau social Twitter.


Opportunities From the Digital Revolution : Implications for Researching, Publishing, and Consuming Qualitative Research

Authors : Louise Corti, Nigel Fielding

In the 1990s, the term “online” research emerged as a new and vibrant suite of methods, focused on exploitation of sources not collected by traditional social science methods. Today, at least one part of the research life cycle is likely to be carried out “online,” from data collection through to publishing.

In this article, we seek to understand emergent modes of doing and reporting qualitative research “online.” With a greater freedom now to term oneself a “researcher,” what opportunities and problems do working with online data sources bring?

We explore implications of emerging requirements to submit supporting data for social science journal articles and question whether these demands might disrupt the very nature of and identity of qualitative research.

Finally, we examine more recent forms of publishing and communicating research that support outputs where data play an integral role in elucidating context and enhancing the reading experience.

URL : Opportunities From the Digital Revolution : Implications for Researching, Publishing, and Consuming Qualitative Research


Changes in the digital scholarly environment and issues of trust: An exploratory, qualitative analysis

Authors : Anthony Watkinson, David Nicholas, Clare Thornley, Eti Herman, Hamid R. Jamali, Rachel Volentine, Suzie Allard, Kenneth Levine, Carol Tenopir

The paper reports on some of the results of a research project into how changes in digital behaviour and services impacts on concepts of trust and authority held by researchers in the sciences and social sciences in the UK and the USA.

Interviews were used in conjunction with a group of focus groups to establish the form and topic of questions put to a larger international sample in an online questionnaire. The results of these 87 interviews were analysed to determine whether or not attitudes have indeed changed in terms of sources of information used, citation behaviour in choosing references, and in dissemination practices.

It was found that there was marked continuity in attitudes though an increased emphasis on personal judgement over established and new metrics. Journals (or books in some disciplines) were more highly respected than other sources and still the vehicle for formal scholarly communication.

The interviews confirmed that though an open access model did not in most cases lead to mistrust of a journal, a substantial number of researchers were worried about the approaches from what are called predatory OA journals. Established researchers did not on the whole use social media in their professional lives but a question about outreach revealed that it was recognised as effective in reaching a wider audience.

There was a remarkable similarity in practice across research attitudes in all the disciplines covered andin both the countries where interviews were held.


In abundance: Networked participatory practices as scholarship

« In an era of knowledge abundance, scholars have the capacity to distribute and share ideas and artifacts via digital networks, yet networked scholarship often remains unrecognized within institutional spheres of influence. Using ethnographic methods including participant observation, interviews, and document analysis, this study investigates networks as sites of scholarship. Its purpose is to situate networked practices within Boyer’s (1990) four components of scholarship – discovery, integration, application, and teaching – and to explore them as a techno-cultural system of scholarship suited to an era of knowledge abundance.

Not only does the paper find that networked engagement both aligns with and exceeds Boyer’s model for scholarship, it suggests that networked scholarship may enact Boyer’s initial aim of broadening scholarship itself through fostering extensive cross-disciplinary, public ties and rewarding connection, collaboration, and curation between individuals rather than roles or institutions. »

URL : In abundance: Networked participatory practices as scholarship

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Digital humanities pedagogy

« Academic institutions are starting to recognize the growing public interest in digital humanities research, and there is an increasing demand from students for formal training in its methods. Despite the pressure on practitioners to develop innovative courses, scholarship in this area has tended to focus on research methods, theories and results rather than critical pedagogy and the actual practice of teaching.

The essays in this collection offer a timely intervention in digital humanities scholarship, bringing together established and emerging scholars from a variety of humanities disciplines across the world. The first section offers views on the practical realities of teaching digital humanities at undergraduate and graduate levels, presenting case studies and snapshots of the authors’ experiences alongside models for future courses and reflections on pedagogical successes and failures. The next section proposes strategies for teaching foundational digital humanities methods across a variety of scholarly disciplines, and the book concludes with wider debates about the place of digital humanities in the academy, from the field’s cultural assumptions and social obligations to its political visions.

Digital Humanities pedagogy broadens the ways in which both scholars and practitioners can think about this emerging discipline, ensuring its ongoing development, vitality and long-term sustainability. »


Annotation as a New Paradigm in Research Archiving

« We outline a paradigm to preserve results of digital scholarship, whether they are query results, feature values, or topic assignments. This paradigm is characterized by using annotations as multifunctional carriers and making them portable. The testing grounds we have chosen are two significant enterprises, one in the history of science, and one in Hebrew scholarship. The first one (CKCC) focuses on the results of a project where a Dutch consortium of universities, research institutes, and cultural heritage institutions experimented for 4 years with language techniques and topic modeling methods with the aim to analyze the emergence of scholarly debates. The data: a complex set of about 20.000 letters. The second one (DTHB) is a multi-year effort to express the linguistic features of the Hebrew bible in a text database, which is still growing in detail and sophistication. Versions of this database are packaged in commercial bible study software. We state that the results of these forms of scholarship require new knowledge management and archive practices. Only when researchers can build efficiently on each other’s (intermediate) results, they can achieve the aggregations of quality data by which new questions can be answered, and hidden patterns visualized. Archives are required to find a balance between preserving authoritative versions of sources and supporting collaborative efforts in digital scholarship. Annotations are promising vehicles for preserving and reusing research results. »