Feb 17, 2011

Data and the social sciences

Science magazine has a special issue on data. The article "Ensuring the Data-Rich Future of the Social Sciences" (pay-walled) has some suggestions for how to take advantage of the huge data in the future, facilitate sharing and at the same time protect privacy.

  1. Promote data visibility and credit its original author, but archive the data professionally using formalized standards.
  2. Nurture replication and encourage sharing by making a norm or a requirement.
  3. Develop privacy-enhanced data sharing protocols and allow researchers to work with sensitive data in a connected but digitally secure environment (similar to corporations, governments, etc.)
  4. Build a common, open-source, collaborative infrastructure that makes data analysis and sharing easy within and across disciplines.
  5. Develop legal standards.

A lot of data and their preservation is a serious concern of the future social sciences. But by shifting from wisdom to knowledge to information to now data, are we moving forward or backward? The question is whether improved standards, techniques, and policies of data preservation and sharing ultimately improve our knowledge of the world and our collective wisdom...