Why Researchers Shouldn’t Share All Their Data - The Chronicle of Higher Education

ab1630's bookmarks 2018-05-03


"In 1925, the year Gertrude Stein published her 1,000-page book The Making of Americans, she felt the need to explain, in lectures at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, why it was so long. Her aim, she said, was to depict a tense she described as the "continuous present." Her method for doing so — and the culprit for her verbosity — was "using everything." The thought of "using everything" should send a chill down the spine of any researcher. Producing publishable results from an investigation typically requires managing far more material than can fit into the publication format. A secret realm of dark data resides in the notebooks and hard drives of the data-gatherers; they judge that data to be excess, but who knows? What if it is not? In this excess, in this "everything," surely there are the ingredients of unrealized cures and upheavals. And in this excess, every researcher knows, are parts of our process we would rather not share. There, we are vulnerable. During the years when I worked primarily as a reporter, this excess haunted me. I have hours-long interview transcripts from which only a few words, if that, appeared in an article — not because those words were the only ones of value, but because of the needs and constraints of that particular article. Eventually I started to collect my reporting notes into public notebooks, including one that is the basis of my next book and of this article. Doing so has become an easy way to share what I gather with people who want more than what the published work can hold. It has also inclined me to take better notes, and to notice more threads of connection among disparate projects. But I have also found myself holding back. I hide my detailed reading notes behind a password. To protect my sources, interview recordings and transcripts remain offline altogether. Field notes stay in paper notebooks...."



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Date tagged:

05/03/2018, 15:07

Date published:

05/03/2018, 11:07