“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.
The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good fellowship is a University of Chicago summer program for aspiring data scientists to work on data mining, machine learning, big data, and data science projects with social impact.
New Website Launches, Giving Public Access to Measures of Child Wellbeing & Equity in the U.S. COLUMBUS, OH- With the help of The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, The Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy (ICYPF) at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management has launched today a new online data and analysis tool—diversitydatakids.org—providing unprecedented insight into wellbeing and equity among the ever more diverse child population in the United States.
The website and its online tools were created with generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and will help users pinpoint inequities that exist among children of varying racial and ethnic groups that threaten wellbeing. The website also allows users to create customized profiles, rankings and maps of childhood wellbeing in their own communities, translating demographic data into more visual and understandable formats. Users can zoom from a national and statewide perspective, to smaller levels of geography, including individual metropolitan areas, school districts and, in some cases, neighborhoods. Most importantly, the site makes available to the public for the first time unique region-specific data that, highlight known structural factors that research has shown to catalyze racial and ethnic disparities.
“The U.S. child population is increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, but unfortunately not all children have the same opportunities for healthy development,” said Dolores Acevado-Garcia, Director of ICYPF and principal investigator of diversitydatakids.org. “We hope that our data will equip users to become more informed advocates for all children and especially for vulnerable children.”
Diversitydatakids.org is the largest opportunity mapping tool the Kirwan Institute has helped to produce since its founding in 2003. Research staff and graduate students at the Kirwan Institute invested hundreds of hours in the project, contacting government departments in 44 states to collect, clean, analyze and map the data that was used to create the 100 Metropolitan Area child opportunity maps. “The launch of the diversitydatakids.org website reflects years of hard work and a close partnership between ICYPF and the Kirwan Institute,” said Sharon Davies, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute. “This unprecedented mapping project was built using the highest-quality data currently available on the child population in the United States, making visible the experiences of children in our communities, which continue to vary tremendously by race and ethnicity, often in ways that are avoidable.”
The site features three fact sheets that illustrate how the region-specific data can be used to promote community discussions about enhancing opportunity for children. “Our hope is that the project will be a toolkit for other researchers, policymakers, and advocates to promote positive change that will improve the lives of our children,” Davies said.
Civic data published by public agencies serves as a valuable asset enabling access to information that may have been previously unavailable, unobtainable or costly. The role of open, publicly accessible data is multi-faceted.
Looping back to Anderson’s original premise on the ascendency of Big Data, it’s becoming clear that these tools are a valuable addition to existing research methodologies, particularly where large amounts of information are in play, but not a...
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