Panton Fellow Introduction

Originally posted on the OKFN Open Science Working Group blog –

Hello! My name is Samuel Moore and I am delighted to have been selected for a Panton Fellowship this year. I wanted to write a quick post to introduce myself, my background and my plans for the fellowship.

I am a second-year, part-time PhD student at King’s College London working in the Centre for e-Research, which is part of the King’s Digital Humanities department. Even though the Panton Fellowships have generally been aimed at scientists, I am actually a humanities researcher by training, having studied philosophy as an undergraduate and literature as a master’s student. My PhD research straddles the border between the humanities and social sciences – I am conducting a series of multi-year case studies to assess the extent to which Open Access publishing is changing research practices in a number of humanities subjects. Overall, my academic interests centre on the ways in which ‘openness’ can unlock new methods of scholarly research and communication, and I feel that open data is one key piece in this puzzle.

With this in mind, one of my aims for the year is to advocate for, and build momentum behind, Open Data in the humanities and social sciences (HSS), particularly with a view to improving the guidance on Open Data for HSS researchers. As was the case with Open Access, the sciences have surged ahead in the adoption of Open Data, although there is no obvious reason why HSS communities should lag behind. In the humanities, for instance, digital humanists are creating a variety of datasets that would benefit from sharing and reuse. Likewise, historians digitise huge amounts of source material that often languishes on local hard drives or is simply forgotten about. A number of quotes in the recent report by Ithaka S + R on the changing digital practices of historians support the idea that Open Data would be welcomed in the humanities:

‘Some historians hope that their own digitization work can contribute to more content being made available for both the public and other scholars.’ [p. 12]

‘One [researcher] discussed how a mass digitization of government audio recordings and their availability in the public domain have shaped his career and his research.’ [p. 14]

There is a similar need for Open Data in the social sciences too. The recently launched Open Economics Principles call for Open Data as a default practice in economics, particularly so that results can be reproduced in the hope of avoiding another Reinhart-Rogoff scandal, for example. And in psychology there have been similar calls for the publication of data for verification purposes. There is, therefore, a clear need for Open Data in the humanities and social sciences and I would be especially interested to work with Open Data practitioners in HSS communities on how the guidance can best be improved here – please do get in touch!

Another key objective of my fellowship will be to establish a working group on Open Data publication ethics. This ties in more with my current part-time position as managing editor of the Ubiquity Press metajournals. These journals feature peer-reviewed papers describing openly available datasets in a range of subjects and act as an incentive for researchers to publish their data openly and according to disciplinary standards. As data publishing is such a new field, there is currently no group that journal editors can approach for case-by-case advice on data publishing ethics, similar to the Committee on Publication Ethics, although such a committee would be a useful addition to publishing community. Again, please do get in touch if you have any ideas for how this committee could operate.

I will be blogging regularly about my Panton activities and you can also connect with me on Twitter. I would be happy to receive suggestions on how best to accomplish my two objectives, or on any aspect of Open Data for that matter!


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