chapter 2 by YAN LIU


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Towards a sociology of e research

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chapter 2 by YAN LIU

  1. 1. Towards a Sociology of e-Research<br />Shaping Practice and Advancing<br />YAN LIU<br />Yeungnam University<br />
  2. 2. Introduction<br />We categorize some different social science approaches in the context of e-research and provide illustrations of how they have been deployed. The aim is to highlight the diversity of these approaches, show complementarities among them, and point to how they might shape the e-research enterprise. <br />We also include, e-researchers who are concerned with the technical development of e-research technologies and infrastructure and categorize their approaches to development .<br />
  3. 3. Introduction<br />In order to provide context for the categories of social science approaches to e-research and the implications that we identify, we would like to highlight two points in particular:<br />Firstly, that programmatic e-research , at least in the U.K. and U.S., was initially developed within the physical and life sciences and subsequently extended to the social sciences and humanities.<br />Secondly, the U.K. initiative in science and engineering is already winding down as a distinct initiative that is separate from mainstream programs of research funding, as evidenced by the fact that dedicated e-science funding programs have ceased.<br />
  4. 4. Disciplines and Boundaries<br />The first feature to notice is that, as with many other technology-led initiatives, there is an imbalance that has meant technologies have been developed without taking social aspects into account. Overlooking the social side is typical of the early phase of large-scale and complex science and engineering projects(Hughes, 1998).<br /> On the whole, the discipline of computer science and its development of new technologies have dominated the early phase of e-research.<br />
  5. 5. Disciplines and Boundaries<br />Another point to note is that it is not necessarily the case that the natural sciences are “earlier adopters” of internet-related tools more than the social sciences and humanities. <br />If we consider the scale of funding for the different projects and disciplines involved, clearly funding in the natural sciences outweights funding in the social sciences.<br />
  6. 6. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Here we extend the categorization to also include the latter based on two dimensions:<br />①The degree to which approaches are pragmatic or are research oriented;<br />②The degree to which approaches attempt to engage with e-research on a proactive level or, in contrast, take a detached stance.<br />Plotting the approaches we identified along these two dimensions results in a taxonomy consisting of four main categories: <br />①proactive-engagement/pragmatic;<br />②proactive-engagement/research;<br />③detachment/pragmatic;<br />④ detachment/research;<br />
  7. 7. Social science approaches to e-researchtable 2.1 approaches to e-research as an object of research<br />
  8. 8. Social science approaches to e-researchtable 2.2 approaches to e-research as an object of development<br />
  9. 9. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Proactive-engagement/pragmatic:<br />Perspectives that fall within this quadrant of the taxonomy, shown in tables 2.1 and 2.2, are concerned with how the effectiveness and uptake of e-research can be enhanced through. <br />For example, refining understanding of practice, user representations, and human computer interfaces.<br />
  10. 10. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Usability/practical :<br />In this case one of the most important was “trust”, both in the new technology and between radiologists. The introduction of a distributed system for reading mammograms reconfigured the ways in which trust could be built. <br />Another set of issues concerned the sharing of data, whereby it was deemed generally unethical to share mammograms between clinics and outside of the clinicians and readers who had had direct involvement with the patient and with each other.<br />
  11. 11. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Agenda neutral/supporting paradigms:<br />This approach is exemplified by development projects that are concerned with research practice on a fine-grained level; how individuals handle and process data, how collaborative groups work together. Such as a user requirements engineer, these teams involve developers, domain experts and practitioners. <br />Ex: National Centre for e-Social Science(CEeSS,<br /> Mixed Media Grid(MiMeG,<br />Digital Record (<br />
  12. 12. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Proactive-engagement/research<br />Value free/attempted neutrality:<br />There are of course debates in the social sciences about whether value-free research and neutrality are possible. One area of the study of e-research where this approach is often in evidence is in the study of communication and collaboration. Research that falls into this category includes, for ex, the analysis and evaluation of collaboratories(<br />
  13. 13. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Embedded in the disciplines/sustainability:<br />Development efforts in this category place an emphasis on computational and data processing needs for specific research problems. The focus is on sustainability, ensuring a steady flow of human and financial resources in order to maintain tools and resources and support communities of users.<br />Ex: Modelling and Simulation for e-Social Science (NCeSS)<br />Policy Grid:<br />
  14. 14. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Detachment/pragmatic<br />Advocacy/steering and aligning structures:<br />Advocacy is mainly aimed at general issues affecting e-research, it engages with agendas in pursuance of its goals. These include fostering structures that enable communication and collaboration across disciplinary, institutional, and geographic frontiers.<br /> And general issues of resources and organizational frameworks are typically at the forefront of the advocacy social science approach this approach is illustrated by the work of David and Spence, in their account of the institutional infrastructures for e-science.<br />
  15. 15. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Agenda aligned/supporting genetic infrastructure:<br />In this category that we place national publicly accessible resources, such as the internet archive, given their institutional alliance and primary concern with developing a generic service that is not embedded in any specific discipline or research paradigm.<br />
  16. 16. Social science approaches to e-research<br />Detachment/research<br />Critical/reflexive or prospective:<br />The critical/reflexive approach is concerned with the social implications of e-research and tends to highlight the discrepancy between visions and practice. The focus is often on the analysis of high-level discourses around e-research, such as policy documents or future visions. The discussing typically revolves around the “values” and ”expectations” embedded in technologies as well as the evolving meaning of terminology, definitions, and boundaries.<br />
  17. 17. Discussion<br />Potential impact:<br />For the projects developing e-research tools and resources, the question is whether those projects that are mainly being developed as part of a larger concerted e-research agenda are more likely to succeed than those which are agenda neutral or embed themselves within disciplines.<br />
  18. 18. Discussion<br />Potential synergies:<br />There is much overlap between the four social science approaches. This applies not only to the thin line between critical and neutral approaches, but also between critical approaches and usability.<br />Another point is that different social science approaches may influence e-research at different stages.<br />
  19. 19. Conclusions<br />The newness of e-research is perhaps least relevant to “usability/practical” approaches, because here the main concern is a pragmatic one: making tools work.<br />In development and use, there is also a programmatic element, apart from an instrumental one, at play: how, via pushing tools and resources across disciplines, there is an aim to actively overcome systemic bottlenecks and creating novel supporting institutions. <br />
  20. 20. Conclusions<br />A final set of ideas that can be taken from the sociology of science is that across all e-research projects, one effect which seems mostly unintended is that e-research projects make visible or explicit many processes that were previously invisible or implicit.<br />
  21. 21. END<br />Thanks<br />