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The Special Case of Scientific Data Sharing with Education

Jillian C. Wallis, Stasa Milojevic, Christine L. Borgman, & William A. Sandoval

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


For a digital library to be useful it must fit the needs, activities, and contexts of the people who use it, who create it, and who contribute to it. Here we report on the initial stages of research to develop and deploy a digital library of primary sources in habitat biology for use by scientists, teachers, and high school students associated with the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), a large, multi-disciplinary research center. We are studying the information-related practices of these communities as input to the design.

A basic premise of Science and Technology Studies (STS) is that science is a technical practice and a social practice (Star, 1995). In the case of CENS, multiple communities are using the same data collection instruments and resulting data. It is the interaction between technological and social aspects of scientific research that makes designing a system for these communities a complicated problem. When, how, and whether data sharing occurs between scientists is influenced by several conditions, such as whether scientific data exist to be shared, whether those scientists are willing to share those data, mechanisms available for sharing, and the authority required to release data. Sharing data among scientists reflects community practices, and these practices are only minimally understood (Hilgartner & Brandt-Rauf, 1994). Even less is understood about the conditions under which scientists will share their data with teachers and their students.

Making scientific data available for use in learning is a means to leverage investments in the technology, the data, and the associated infrastructure. The CENS community initially consists of researchers across multiple disciplines, teachers, and students affiliated with the Center. As we expand, data generated by our sensor networks will be available to other scientists and to teachers and students in other schools. Sharing data among this diverse array of communities is the goal of the research reported here. CENS offers a rare opportunity to study the generation of scientific data and sharing among these different communities.

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