Discipline and research data in geography
thesisposted on 19.10.2017, 11:55 by Wan Ting (Winnie) Tam
Research data is essential to scholarship. The value of research data and its management has been increasingly recognized by policy makers and higher education institutions. A deep understanding of disciplinary practices is vital to develop culturally-sensitive policy, tools and services for successful data management. Previous research has shown that data practices vary across sub-fields and disciplines. However, much less is known about how disciplinary cultures shape data practices. There is a need to theorise research data practices based on empirical evidence in order to inform policy, tools and services. The aim of the thesis is to examine the interrelation between data practices and disciplinary cultures within geography. Geography is well-established and multidisciplinary, consisting of elements from the sciences, social sciences and humanities. By examining a single discipline this thesis develops a theoretical understanding of research data practices at a finer level of granularity than would be achieved by looking at broad disciplinary groupings such as the physical and social sciences. Data collection and analysis consisted of two phases. Phase one was exploratory, including an analysis of geography department websites and researcher web profiles and a bibliometric study of collaboration patterns based on co-authorship. Phase one aimed to understand the disciplinary characteristics of geography in preparation for Phase two. The second phase consisted of a series of 23 semi-structured interviews with researchers in geography, which aimed to understand researchers data practices and their attitudes toward data sharing within the context of the sub-discipline(s) they inhabited. The findings of the thesis show that there are contrasting intellectual, social and data differences between physical and human geography. For example, intellectually, these two branches of geography differ in terms of their research objects and methods; socially, they differ in terms of the scale of their collaborative activities and the motivations to collaborate; furthermore, the nature of data, how data is collected and data sharing practices are also different between physical and human geography. The thesis concludes that differences in the notion of data and data sharing practices are grounded in disciplinary characteristics. The thesis develops a new three-dimensional framework to better understand the notion of data from a disciplinary perspective. The three dimensions are (1) physical form, (2) intellectual content and (3) social construction. Furthermore, Becher and Trowler s (2001) disciplinary taxonomy i.e. hard-soft/pure-applied, and the concepts urban-rural ways of life and convergent-divergent communities, is shown to be useful to explain the diverse data sharing practices of geographers. The thesis demonstrates the usefulness of applying disciplinary theories to the sphere of research data management.
- Business and Economics