Data, scholarship and libraries

Data, long understood as essential evidence for scholarship, are now viewed as products to be shared, reused, and curated. Libraries, long understood to be responsible for curating the products of scholarship, are now assessing their roles in acquiring, managing, and sustaining access to research data. While libraries have adapted to the evolution of document technologies for centuries - from papyri to eReaders - accepting long-term obligations for research data may reposition the role of the library in the university. Publications, the traditional remit of libraries, play established roles in scholarship. Data are much different entities than publications. Rarely do they stand alone, separable from software, protocols, lab and field conditions, and other context.

Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. They are a lens to observe the rapidly changing landscape of scholarly work in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Inside the black box of data is a plethora of research, technology, and policy issues. Concerns for data sharing and open access raise questions about what data to keep, what to share, when, how, and with whom. The stakes and stakeholders in research data are many and varied, posing new challenges for scholars, librarians, policy makers, publishers, students, and their partners. This talk is drawn from Big Data, Little Data, No Data: Scholarship in the Networked World (MIT Press, 2015), much of which was written at the University of Oxford when the author was an Oliver Smithies Fellow at Balliol College in 2012-2013.

Christine L Borgman, Distinguished Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA, is the author of more than 250 publications in information studies, computer science, and communication.

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