As scholarship has become increasingly data-intensive — the result of digital technologies and networks — it is important to ensure that many types of digital data can be reused for purposes that go well beyond those for which they were collected. The National Science Foundation recognizes this need in their Cyberinfrastructure Vision for the 21st Century [PDF]:
The enormous growth in the availability and utility of scientific data is increasing scholarly research productivity, accelerating the transformation of research outcomes into products and services, and enhancing the effectiveness of learning across the spectrum of human behavior. (p. 16)
Here are some examples of how digital data resources are being leveraged in a variety of fields:
In the earth sciences:
- Many research data sets resulting from field-based research projects are archived by the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Earth Observing Laboratory and available to scientific users.
Computational biology has emerged from the potential to mine diverse digital data resources such as:
- GenBank and its counterparts in the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration. These bring together gene sequences produced in laboratories throughout the world in an openly accessible online archive. The free and rapid access to this information allows scientists to study and compare the same data as their colleagues nearly anywhere in the world, and makes possible collaborative research that will lead ultimately to improved health and cures for diseases.
In the social sciences:
- Data collected by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a longitudinal study of more than 65,000 individuals over more than three decades, has been used in 290 journal articles and 70 Ph.D. dissertations in the past five years.
New kinds of scholarly works
New forms of scholarship are emerging from the possibilities of the digital networked environment. Here are a few examples.
As scholarship has become increasingly data-intensive — the result of digital technologies and networks — it is important to ensure that many types of digital data can be reused for purposes that go well beyond those for which they were collected.
Journal articles, once available only to subscribers and “authorized users,” increasingly are becoming freely available on the web.
Rewards of scholarship
Scholarship is driven not just by intellectual curiosity and funding availability. It is also about the rewards that come to scholars for their work. Promotion and tenure opportunities are an important part of this equation.