[EAS] Scholarship and the Data Deluge
Peter J. Kindlmann
pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Oct 31 18:15:53 EDT 2008
From the current issue of TL INFOBITS
<http://its.unc.edu/tl/infobits/bitoct08.php>, one of my favorite
resource identifiers, comes this:
SCHOLARSHIP AND THE "DATA DELUGE"
"Retrieving whole books, articles, and other documents is no longer
sufficient for scholarly research. Faculty and students want to mine
documents or other textual works--whether for molecules, materials,
or mavens, depending on their field of study. . . . What is new in
the digital environment? Information can be extracted in smaller
units, mashed up, and recombined -- preferably with sources. Faculty
and students alike need assistance in learning how to think with
these tools and services if they are to ask truly new questions with
In "Supporting the 'Scholarship' in E-Scholarship" (EDUCAUSE REVIEW,
vol. 43, no. 6, November/December 2008), Christine L. Borgman
examines new forms of scholarly research -- data-intensive,
distributed, collaborative, and multidisciplinary -- that are being
enabled by the "data deluge," the vast amount and variety of digital
materials available to researchers. These new forms of scholarship
will have an impact not only on scholars, but also on academic
libraries and campus information technology infrastructure.
You can read the article at http://connect.educause.edu/library/erm0863
EDUCAUSE Review [ISSN 1527-6619], a bimonthly print magazine that
explores developments in information technology and education, is
published by EDUCAUSE (http://www.educause.edu/). Articles from
current and back issues of EDUCAUSE Review are available on the Web
It is a short and polite article, more polite than I typically am,
really more of a reminder of issues of growing concern, rather than a
treatment. The references help with that.
The author does take issue with WIRED's wooly claim that "....
science no longer needs theory, models, metadata, ontologies, or "the
scientific method": mining the data deluge replaces all of them."
Traditions of scholarship on all levels, undergraduate, graduate and
professional, are rapidly dissolving. Undergraduates need to be given
careful working definitions of plagiarism. There are no longer
assured predispositions one can rely on. Filtering papers through
plagiarism detection search engines is now routine. Attribution of
ideas at the graduate and professional level is a challenge. Some
might say it is not worth trying so hard, were it not for the lure of
patenting, itself a broken process, and the honorable standing
associated with the PhD degree.
Multiple authorship in collaborative research makes a hash of
publication and citation counts, which had always more to do with
accounting than with critical thinking, but are rapidly becoming ever
Citation analysis was invented, by the way, as a tool for librarians.
It was not the initial belief that citation analysis would be useful
to analyze the quality of an individual's work by the frequency of
their citations. Yale's Derek deSolla Price, one of the founders of
the field of citation analysis, who died in 1983, long before the
"mix-master" effect of the Internet, was strikingly qualified in its
"It is absurd to give someone with 21 citations an edge over someone
with 19, but that is simply a matter of calculating appropriate
standard deviations and probable errors. We all hope for greater
sophistication but the point is that citations do provide a
reproducible and clearly useful measure of something. The big
question is not whether it correlates with quality in some particular
sense of that term but rather what sort of quality is being measured."
What sort of quality indeed. There are serious policy issues that
need to be addressed as the underpinnings of current scholarship. We
have outgrown the age of comfortable traditions, which in their day
weren't even all that comfortable. There isn't much at stake, only
the future of the university.
More information about the EAS-INFO