Big Data, Little Data, No Data
“Big Data” is on the covers of Science, Nature, the Economist, and Wired magazines, on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But despite the media hyperbole, as Christine Borgman points out in this examination of data and scholarly research, having the right data is usually better than having more data; little data can be just as valuable as big data. In many cases, there are no data—because relevant data don’t exist, cannot be found, or are not available. Moreover, data sharing is difficult, incentives to do so are minimal, and data practices vary widely across disciplines.
Borgman, an often-cited authority on scholarly communication, argues that data have no value or meaning in isolation; they exist within a knowledge infrastructure—an ecology of people, practices, technologies, institutions, material objects, and relationships. After laying out the premises of her investigation—six “provocations” meant to inspire discussion about the uses of data in scholarship—Borgman offers case studies of data practices in the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and then considers the implications of her findings for scholarly practice and research policy. To manage and exploit data over the long term, Borgman argues, requires massive investment in knowledge infrastructures; at stake is the future of scholarship.
About the Author
Christine L. Borgman is Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure and Scholarship in the Digital Age (both winners of the “Best Information Science Book” award from ASIS&T), published by the MIT Press.
—John Leslie King, W. W. Bishop Professor of Information, University of Michigan
—Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law and Computer Science, Harvard University; Co-founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Director, Harvard Law School Library
—Gregg Gordon, President and CEO, Social Science Research Network
Winner, 2015 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in Computing & Information Sciences, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers