Sally Wyatt - Teaching and PhD Supervision

Politics of Open Data

It’s taken a while (we first presented the paper at a conference in 2014), but it has now been published in a book called The Politics of Big Data. Big Data, Big Brother?, edited by Ann Rudinow Sætnan, Ingrid Schneider and Nicola Green (Routledge, 2018).

Our chapter is called: Understanding the ‘open’ in making research data open: policy rhetoric and research practice. The authors are Merel Noorman, Bridgette Wessels, Thordis Sveinsdottir and myself. The chapter is based on some of the work we did as part of the RECODE project, about open access to research data.

In the chapter, we analyse three key policy documents about open research data from the OECD, the European Commission and the UK Royal Society. We first argue that the policy rhetoric of openness can be distinguished along three dimensions: technological, organisational and moral. Using these dimensions, we then compare the policy rhetoric with actual practices in different epistemic communities. This demonstrates the importance of paying attention to existing practices for data sharing and governance. Rather than implementing a single model of open access to research data, based on flawed assumptions about how data travels in and between different epistemic communities, we conclude that openness means different things and will be practised and organised in a variety of ways. Polices are needed to support such plurality.

In another short piece (not yet open access, I’m afraid), I wrote about my experiences as part of the committee that prepared the report Open Data in a Big Data World.  I describe how I attempted to ensure that insights from science and technology studies—made by contributors to this special issue of Science, Technology and Human Values (2017, vol. 42, issue 2) and many others in the field—were incorporated in the final report. I also describe how technologically determinist arguments were invoked to close down discussions about the political dimensions of open access to research data.