Chapter Abstracts

e-Research: Transformation in Scholarly practice

Part I: Introduction

1 The Contours and Challenges of e-Research

Nicholas W. Jankowski
Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities & Social Sciences, the Netherlands

This chapter serves as introduction to volume and elaborates on the historical development of e-science, first in the natural and physical sciences, and then in the social sciences and humanities. The concerted governmental and technological push for application of e-science principles and practices to the latter domains of scholarship is examined. This examination is illustrated with examples of the kind of projects being piloted and promoted. One of the observations emerging from this review is that much of what is being propagated as new and revolutionary is frequently application of good research organizational practices within an Internet environment. The announced transformation in the scientific enterprise, it is suggested, is more reflective of gradual change than a revolutionary break with the past, and is highly dependent on discipline and other contextual aspects of scholarship.

Part II: Conceptualization

2 Towards a Sociology of e-Research: Shaping Practice and Advancing Knowledge

Jenny Fry & Ralph Schroeder

This chapter maps current social science approaches to the study of e-science. It provides an overview of the different disciplines involved in e-science research, and specifically of the social science disciplines aimed at supporting e-science, in order to ask: how can and should social science best inform research which involves innovative technologies? The chapter discusses this in relation to a variety of current e-science projects, with a particular focus on the United Kingdom, developing a classification of which social science approaches are most likely to be able to provide insights and benefits for them. How to study knowledge production in an e-science context is increasingly being recognized as an important issue by funding bodies such as the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council in the UK and the National Science Foundation in the US. The chapter provides an overview of the diversity of disciplinary approaches that support e-sciences in different ways on these different levels, with examples from current e-science projects and areas of e-science. It will be argued that the place of social science will be much less intractable if its different roles are identified and assigned to different parts of the e-science enterprise.

3 e-Research as Intervention

Anne Beaulieu & Paul Wouters

A key feature of the new Virtual Knowledge Studio (VKS) for the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Netherlands combines reflexive analysis with practical design of scholarly practices. This chapter discusses this nexus and the tensions involved. The Virtual Knowledge Studio has the following goals: to contribute to the design and conceptualization of novel scholarly practices in the humanities and social sciences; to support scholars in experimenting with new ways of doing research and with emerging forms of collaboration and communication; to facilitate the travel of new methods, practices, resources and techniques across disciplines; and to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of knowledge creation. These goals mean that the Studio is both a research program and an infrastructural facility for scholars. This combination is not unproblematic: design and analysis are different types of scientific and scholarly work, with different temporal horizons and different interest coalitions. The VKS attempts to manage these tensions by mobilizing reflexive ways of interrogation as they have been developed in the field of science and technology studies. The chapter shows, on the basis of core research projects supported by the VKS, how reflexivity and instrumentality can be positioned as complimentary, what type of work this entails, and how the Internet can be used as a research arena in this endeavor.

Part III: Development

4 Developing the UK-based e-Social Science Research Program

Peter Halfpenny, Rob Procter, Yu-Wei Lin & Alex Voss

In this chapter we review the development of the research program of the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) funded by the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). We begin by tracing the origins of the Centre, we outline the work-in-progress across the Centre’s emerging research program, and we consider how the Centre contributes to the needs of social science researchers and provides them with opportunities to address key substantive research challenges in new ways. We then turn to the continuing efforts of the NCeSS Hub to develop the Centre’s research agenda and to encourage the wider adoption of e-Social Science. We conclude by reviewing some of the challenges which NCeSS and the research community as a whole must address if the goals of e-Social Science and e-Science are to be realized fully.

5 e-Research and Scholarly Community in the Humanities

Paul Genoni, Helen Merrick & Michele Willson

The terms ‘e-science’ and ‘e-research’ are commonly evoked to describe profound changes experienced as a result of the affordances of computer mediated communication (CMC). Changes in the teaching and research practices of academics are noted in both the traditional and social sciences. Whilst there exists extensive research into emerging patterns of online teaching and learning and on the effects of electronic publication, there has to date been less consideration of the processes of internet-facilitated research (e-research) and the resulting impact on notions of scholarly community or the ‘invisible college’. A full understanding of how CMC has impacted on scholarly research requires consideration not just of its formal outcomes, but also consideration of the processes and practices of the more informal, inter-personal communication that are part of the e-research endeavor. In the chapter we examine the role of scholarly communities in supporting and enabling e-research in the humanities / social sciences. Of particular interest are the informal, behind-the-scenes, communicative and collaborative practices that instigate, manage and produce e-research outcomes. Our study is informed by a broader research project on the virtual scholarly community which surveyed academics in the sciences and humanities about their use of CMC to support, extend and, possibly transform such communities. This chapter offers qualitative examinations of e-research communication processes, drawing upon specific case studies of new and existing e-research groups and distributed collaborative projects. In particular, we ask what such e-research practices and possibilities mean for understandings and experiences of academic community within a communication network environment.

6 The Rise of e-Science in Asia. Dreams and Realities for Social Science Research: Case Studies of Singapore and South Korea

Carol Soon & Han Woo Park

In spite of the growing interest in e-science and e-research among scholars as well as policy-makers, most of the existing published works concentrate on the developments in the Western countries, such as in the United States and United Kingdom. To address the imbalance in existing literature, this chapter focuses primarily on issues related to scholarly practice in e-research within the context of Asian countries. Amongst countries in Asia-Pacific, both South Korea and Singapore have acquired internationally recognized status for their strong Internet networks. Technological discourse dominates the education and digital media scenes in Singapore with technology perceived as an indispensable tool in ensuring that the small nation-state with no natural resources stay ahead of its competition, and South Korea functions as an important node in advanced international and regional research networks. In spite of the clear emergence of e-science as a new way to conduct research and development, little is known about the practices of e-social science research and how these emerging tools help to facilitate Asian scholars in conducting better research and collaboration in the digital age. By adopting a reflective approach, we trace the evolution and attempts to leverage on e-science in these two Asian countries.

Part IV: Collaboration

7 Creating Shared Understanding in Research Across Distance: Distance Collaboratiion across Cultures in R&D

Petra Sonderegger

Planning and managing globally distributed teams presents exceptional challenges in most circumstances. In innovative work, such as research and development (R&D), where questions are often emergent and processes cannot always be clearly defined in advance, these challenges are exacerbated. A difficult balance between in-person and technology-mediated communications must be achieved when R&D teams are spread over multiple locations. On the one hand, the complexity of research projects requires resources, skills and knowledge that are not found within any single location. On the other hand, research and, more generally, innovation require cooperation that has traditionally been facilitated by participants meeting in person around a table. In particular, it is not clear to what extent the discovery and interpretation of new research problems requires the co-presence of researchers. As projects become more complex and are distributed over greater distances, in-person meetings are often not feasible or practical. They are increasingly being replaced by the use of communication technologies. While these technologies allow more frequent communications between distant collaborators, they also reduce the “bandwidth” of that communication. Facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, etc. may be lost. However, successful collaboration, especially for innovative research, relies to a large extent on intense interaction to create a shared language, a common understanding of problems, and the trust required for members of a group to suggest original and untried solutions. These crucial factors are not readily transferred across electronic networks. How, then, do corporations and researchers deal with the challenge of collaborating across geographic distance and organizational boundaries using technology-mediated communication? How are differences in education and national culture bridged? Through analysis of a series of qualitative interviews in international R&D centers in Bangalore, India, these questions are addressed in this chapter.

8 Moving from Small Science to Big Science: Social and Organizational Impediments to Large Scale Data Sharing

Eric T. Meyer

This chapter discusses some of the issues that arise when small scientific projects make the transition to becoming part of larger scientific collaborations, as seen from a social informatics perspective. The data is drawn from two cases: a systematic study of a humpback whale research project involving federating data about the population and movements of humpbacks in the Pacific Ocean, and observations based on the author’s personal experiences as part of a psychiatric genetics collaboration that has recently become involved in contributing data to a large, shared data repository. While these two projects are in very different scientific domains, they share a number of characteristics including decentralized decision-making, limited data management expertise, and long-term collections of legacy data that have contributed to the difficulties the projects have faced in moving from small science to big science. One of the important issues raised is the tension between the desire for flexibility and innovation in scientific practice as weighed against the need for compatible data standards in large-scale scientific data infrastructures. This tension must be resolved if e-Science and e-Social Science projects are to succeed in the long term.

Part V: Visualization

9 Visualization in e-Social Science

Mike Thelwall

This chapter draws upon the experience of the Information Science field of Webometrics to describe the problems and techniques involved when collecting and visualising data about the internet. Social science research based upon the raw data from search engines is in the unprecedented position of being granted free access to a huge heterogeneous corpus of information (the web) but needing some technical computing knowledge to fully understand the data and to extract it efficiently. One of the strange aspects of search engine based research is that the needs of researchers are peripheral to the aims of search engine owners and so the information delivered by search engines can be frustratingly unreliable or difficult to interpret effectively. In addition, key search capabilities are sometimes introduced or removed with little notice.

10 A picture is worth a thousand questions: Visualization techniques for social science discovery in computational spaces

Howard T. Welser, Thomas Lento, Marc Smith, Eric Gleave & Itia Himelboim

Picturing complex data structures that are created when humans interact in and through computational media is a challenging but potentially richly rewarding method for discovery.  Researchers and technologists increasingly apply information visualization techniques to the data generated by social media on the Internet in an effort to gain insights that may have been far more difficult to grasp with qualitative methods alone.  While finding ideal images for various forms of complex data remains a challenge, several examples of discoveries about the nature and dynamics of social structures point to the value for research based on graphical representations.  In our recent work at Microsoft Research, we have sought to find representations of the data structures like hierarchies and network structures that are common in most forms of computational social spaces.  Our approach is to explore these images, finding irregularities along with overall patterns that illuminate the structures and dynamics of computer-mediated behaviour. In this chapter we present select examples of visualizations that highlight useful observations about the range of behaviour being performed in computational social media.  Social media is created by now commonplace tools like email, email lists, newsgroups, discussion boards, web forums, blog comments, wiki talk pages, instant message conversations, SMS messages, Social Networking Services, and several other mechanisms for moving messages that can contain a rich collection of digital objects among select populations of people.  We focus on work around Usenet, one of the oldest institutions and infrastructures of social interaction on the internet, and describe the scales, structures and maps created and containing elements from these spaces.

Part VI: Data Preservation and Reuse

11 Web archiving as e-research

Steven M. Schneider, Kirsten A. Foot & Paul Wouters

As the Web has become an object of research, Web archiving has emerged as a Web-based form of inquiry enabling developmental and retrospective analyses of many kinds of online phenomena. For some scholars in the social sciences and humanities, one such phenomena that holds scholarly interest as an object of study is e-science or e-research, which is commonly understood as the development of ways of doing research that are mediated by digital, networked technologies. Simultaneously, Web archiving has also emerged as a practice of e-research, that is, a practice engaged in by social science and humanities research mediated via digital, networked technologies. In this chapter, we analyze current and potential uses of Web archiving in social studies of e-science, and the challenges of employing Web archiving in such studies. We also interrogate Web archiving as an e-research practice, focusing on the ways in which Web archiving shapes knowledge. We assess the knowledge-shaping dynamic of Web archiving in four dimensions: (1) the analytic practices facilitated by Web archiving, and the possibilities and constraints of Web Archiving for the type of research questions and styles of research; (2) the technical and scholarly processes of Web archiving; (3) the implications of Web archives for the transparency of “replicability” of scholarship on online phenomena and corresponding shifts in research processes; (4) the institutional policies needed to support and sustain Web archiving as e-research. The kinds of analyses facilitated by Web archiving utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods employed at a large scale, over time, and by distributed research teams. We conclude by identifying the challenges social researchers encounter in Web archiving for the purpose of studying e-research. Employing Web archiving in the study and design of e-research requires careful planning and tool development, but enables fruitful reflection on scholarly practices on the Web over time and policies that promote or hinder e-research.

12 The promise of data in e-research: Many challenges, multiple solutions, diverse outcomes

Ann Zimmerman, Nathan Bos, Judy Olson & Gary Olson

The need to share data and to exchange knowledge about data is a primary driver behind many visions of e-science. Yet, efforts to share data face considerable social, organizational, legal, scientific, and technical challenges. Large-scale solutions to these barriers have been slow to develop, although some progress is being made in the technological arena. This chapter reports findings from an analysis of the data sharing approaches used by large collaborations in several scientific disciplines. These results are based on research conducted as part of the Science of Collaboratories project, a five-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate large, distributed collaborations across many domains. One type of solution for data sharing that we identify allows researchers to work as they always have, while the labor necessary to prepare data for sharing and to support their reuse are handled by others. In contrast, a second approach forces scientists to consider barriers to data sharing and aggregation at the outset of data collection and to develop solutions in advance to deal with these issues. Our results show that different types of data sharing solutions place different demands on those who produce data and on those who collect and manage data and make them available for others to use. In addition, individuals or small teams of researchers can often conduct their work privately, whereas large-scale collaborations are subject to increased accountability, greater independencies, and intensified needs for standardization. We discuss the ways in which these factors affect the production, organization, and sharing of data and the implications they have for the institutions and individuals that produce, manage, provide, and preserve scientific data.

13 Naming, documenting and contributing to e-science

Samuelle Carlson & Ben Anderson

Partly as a result of financial inducement, but also for methodological and substantive reasons, social scientists in the UK are beginning to engage with the wider program of ‘e-Science’. As part of a project analyzing the nature of scientific collaboration and knowledge building, we have studied a distributed group of physical scientists and their team of software developers funded under the UK e-Science program; producers and users are examined in a complex socio-economic survey dataset and a series of ethnographic archiving projects within the same UK social science department. Our studies provide insights into concrete examples of e-science practice on which current and future designers of e-Science applications can build. Secondly, the studies contribute to developments in the anthropology of science that ask about the relationship between ownership, community and disciplinarity. Finally, the studies are meant to inform ongoing discussion of the potential benefits and drawbacks of embedding e-(social) science in everyday practice and the incentive structures required to do so. We draw on elements of case studies to describe and explain the potential impact of ‘e-enabling’ on social science data, methods and expertise. We show how the future of e-Social Science depends heavily on the existing practices of disciplines. For those data that are born digital, with clear and existing practices of representation, encoding and a common set of abstractions with which to work, there seems much potential. Since current scientific collaboration often stems from the need to share very expensive resources (such as large telescopes), a driver for e-science is to remove some of the cost barriers to data and knowledge acquisition. In such situations, perhaps the single-scientist is likely to become more common.

Part VII: Access and Intellectual Property

14 Open access to e-research

Robert Lucas & John Willinsky

Recent technological advances enable radically expanded dissemination of scientific research. This chapter makes an ethical and epistemological case for open access to scholarly publications. We review recent developments in access to data and published work and assess the strengths and shortcomings of e-research initiatives with respect to open access. We propose that in addition to strengthening scholarly practice, OA enables scientific findings to better inform public debate and promote the ideal of free inquiry in the broader culture. The field of medicine is presented as an example of how greater public access to research has contributed to the democratic quality of people’s lives.

15 Intellectual Property in the Context of e-Science

Dan L. Burk

e-Science promises to allow globally distributed collaboration and access to scientific research via computer network. But e-science network development is already encountering difficulty over the intellectual property rights associated with data and networked collaborative activity. Intellectual property regimes are generally problematic in the practice of science, scientific research typically assumes practices of openness that may be hampered or obstructed by intellectual property rights. A considerable literature has developed documenting and analyzing the impact of patents on research in the biomedical area, and the history of recent major scientific initiatives, such as the Human Genome Project, have been punctuated by clashes over the propriety and provision of patent rights in the accumulated data. This literature is examined in this chapter and is related to innovative proposals such as the open source ‘copyleft’ model. This model might seem an attractive mechanism for preserving similar values in e-science. However, such copyleft instruments are highly specific to the norms and behavioral expectations of the community in which they were developed. The organizational structure of scientific research may not map cleanly onto the copyleft model, and the patent rights implicated by e-science differ from the copyright issues contemplated under copyleft licenses. Consequently, a firm understanding of not only the technical structure, but of the social and communicative structure of e-science will be necessary in order to adapt licensing solutions to the practice of e-science.

Part VIII: Case Studies

16 Situated innovations in e-social science

Bridgette Wessels & Max Craglia

This chapter discusses a co-construction approach by social scientists and computer scientists in the development of multidisciplinary and collaborative e-social science. The opportunity for this discussion arises from the experience of the authors in conducting one of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC, UK) e-social-science pilot projects in 2003-04. The project explored the opportunities offered by the Grid in addressing the complex relationship between socio-economic characteristics, neighborhoods and crime, which has vexed the field of environmental criminology for several decades. The collective ethnographic approach adopted by the project fostered reflexive development, which we define as ‘situated innovation’. An interpretive approach allowed us to identify barriers to collaborative e-social science, enabling social science to shape the Grid. Enablers include trusted data and research networks, varied skill-sets and the team’s capacity to innovate. In relation to the meaning of e-social science we pose three questions: (1) What are the relationships between technology, research practice and knowledge in producing e-social science; (2) How do social scientists collaborate in doing multidisciplinary work and (3) Why is it important to deconstruct the relationship between theoretical principles and technique? We address the relationship between these questions in the development of e-social science within a sensitizing framework of three interdependent layers of research, which are infrastructural, organizational and philosophical. The significance of this type of analysis is twofold. First, it moves debates about the development of technology beyond the usual dichotomy of design and use that tends to focus on task-based user research, to a level of analysis that considers the underlying philosophical and theoretical knowledge that underpins social science. Second, it raises questions as to the significance of change in relation to the characteristics of the social sciences to indicate the ways in which the social science community may wish to shape e-social science and its tools.

17 Wikipedia as a knowledge production laboratory: The case of neoloberalism

Clifford Tatum & Michele LaFrance

The growth and dynamic of collaborative research has been irreversibly altered by the use of information and communication technologies, and indeed, by the adoption of open content practices. However, it is unclear how open content in this new era of distributed knowledge production constitutes a way of knowing. The present study examines the collaborative processes used in the development of Wikipedia content. The goals of this research are twofold. First, by examining the construction of Wikipedia articles through the lens of established knowledge constructs, the aim is to gain insight into practices of collaborative e-science. Second, this chapter addresses the epistemological implications of these practices, particularly with regard to the notion of distributed knowledge networks. Latour and Woolgar’s construction of facts framework is used to evaluate claims in Wikipedia about their process and their content. Specifically, this paper examines the consensus model of knowledge production and conflict resolution of Wikipedia articles. To accomplish this, discourse analysis is used to analyze contributor discussion and the edit history of individual contributions. The articles are selected based on having recently been in a state of “disputed content” but have since come to achieve consensus. The Latour and Woolgar argument is based on six components. Of particular value to this study are the notions of construction, agonistic field, and reification. Construction addresses the process whereby facts are transformed into artifacts in the collective construction of science. An agonistic field refers to scientists’ activities directed at qualifying a given statement. And finally, reification addresses the time dimension in the stabilization of scientific statements. It is likely that the first two components of the Latour and Woolgar framework, construction and agonistic field, are significant to the Wikipedia process.